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Oyo Hotels is raising $1 bn to fund its growth in China and other countries

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New Delhi: Oyo Hotels, an Indian startup for booking reliable rooms in the country’s chaotic lodging market, is raising $1 billion to fund expansion into China and other global regions.
Existing investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners have put in $800 million, with commitments for another $200 million, the company said on Tuesday. About $600 million of the total will be plowed into China where Oyo began operations only 10 months ago. The funding values the startup at $5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
Ritesh Agarwal, a 24-year-old college dropout, founded Oyo five years after traveling around India on a shoestring budget. He discovered wildly unpredictable standards for hotels and guest houses, and decided to start an online service to bring more reliability to the travel experience. In the past two years, Oyo has expanded beyond India into China, Malaysia, Nepal and Britain.
“With this additional funding, we plan to rapidly scale our business in these countries, while continuing to invest further in technology and talent,” Agarwal said in the statement. “We will also deploy fresh capital to take our unique model that enables small hotel owners to create quality living spaces, global.”
His startup, whose official name is Oravel Stays Pvt, signs on hotel owners and then gets them to upgrade everything from linen, toiletries and bathroom fittings to its specifications. It also equips hotels with staff training and standardized supplies.
It then brings them on board its hotel website, where rooms start at $25 per night. Hotel owners pay Oyo a 25 percent commission.
“Budget travelers are consistently shortchanged by the lack of trust, quality, and consistency,” said Bejul Somaia, managing director of Lightspeed India, explaining that Oyo can change that dynamic.
At a $5 billion valuation, Oyo would be India’s most-valuable startup after One97 Communications, the parent of digital payments pioneer Paytm. Flipkart Online Services Pvt had been the most valuable startup in the country, but the online retailer has been acquired by U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc. earlier this year.
India’s hotel industry includes large chains with dependable hospitality experiences at the mid to top end. But the business also includes thousands of unbranded, ramshackle hotels and lodges with broken beds, yellowing linen and stinking bathrooms. Oyo is trying to make hotels easier to find through its site and more predictable as well.
Its criteria are exacting — from the thickness of the mattress to the placement of the light switches to the size of the showerhead in the bathroom. Agarwal has said that he wants the Oyo brand to convey a superior experience.
Oyo began with one hotel in Gurgaon and has grown to 125,000 rooms in India, where it says it’s tripling year-over-year in terms of transactions. In China, where it began operations last November, it has expanded to 171 cities with 87,000 rooms. It is now in over 350 cities with 211,000 rooms.
The Flipkart acquisition was seen in India as an example of the country’s growing success in building valuable startups. Walmart acquired 77 percent of the business for $16 billion as the U.S. retailer seeks to compete with Amazon.com Inc. in the country.


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Business

Indian billionaires’ wealth rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018: report

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New Delhi: Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country’s richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said .Globally, billionaires’ fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world’s population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in this Swiss ski resort town.

Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.

Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual gathering of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.

 

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines.

“If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” she added.

Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.

The world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.

“India’s top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth. The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population,” Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.

Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.

“It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added.

“The size of one’s bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live — yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care,” Byanyima said.

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Fugitive Choksi surrenders Indian passport in Antigua to ‘avoid extradition’

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Chandigarh:Fugitive tycoon Mehul Choksi has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua, as per media reports.

This move by Choksi’s is being seen as an attempt to avoid his extradition to India. Antigua and India do not have an extradition treaty.

India had earlier handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of Mehul Choksi who is charged in connection with India’s biggest banking fraud, and now living in the Caribbean nation after taking its citizenship.

 

Official sources said a team comprising officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other agencies was sent to Antigua a couple of days ago to request the Antiguan authorities to extradite Choksi, wanted in India in the US$ 2 billion Punjab National bank scam.

As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared Choksi’s citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application for it.

Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. His citizenship was cleared in November 2017.

Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).

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FPI outflow crosses Rs 4,000 crore in Jan so far

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New Delhi: Foreign investors have pulled out more than Rs 4,000 crore from the Indian capital markets so far in January, highlighting their cautious stance towards the country.

This comes following a collective net inflow of over Rs 17,000 crore in the capital markets both equity and debt by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) during November and December.

Prior to that, they had pulled out a massive Rs 38,905 crore in October.

 

According to data available with the depositories, FPIs withdrew a net amount of Rs 3,987 crore from equities and a net sum of Rs 53 crore from the debt market, taking the total outflow to Rs 4,040 crore during January 1-18.

Market experts believe that FPIs are continuing with their ‘wait and watch’ approach towards India.

Going ahead, the focus would be on the budget, progress on the economic growth front and general elections, they added.

Other factors such as movement in crude prices and currency as well as US-China trade relations will also play a role in FPI flows, they added.

Harsh Jain, COO at Groww, an online MF investment platform, said 2019 is likely to see a lot of volatility because of the rate hikes and dollar instability, but the Indian markets may be able to weather the storm.

“India offers better investment opportunities due to consistent growth, supportive global factors and attract valuations. We should expect positive inflow in coming months,” he added.

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