Softbank’s troubles don’t seem to be ending anytime soon. After the spectacular WeWork debacle, now fun and games have begun at another of its high-profile investments – Oyo, an aggregator of budget hotel rooms. Oyo is not only among the most valued privately-owned Indian companies and among the most successful startups alongside Flipkart and Ola, it is the foremost amongst them in terms of international expansion – it operates across 80 different countries. Hence, this story in the New York Times showing some questionable practices achieves relevance.
“Oyo offers rooms from unavailable hotels, such as those that have left its service, according to the company’s chief executive and nine of the current and former employees. That has the effect of inflating the number of rooms listed on Oyo’s site.
Thousands of the rooms are from unlicensed hotels and guesthouses, its executives have acknowledged. To deter trouble from the authorities over the illegal rooms, Oyo sometimes gives free lodging to the police and other officials, according to nine of the current and former employees and internal WhatsApp messages viewed by The New York Times.
Oyo has also imposed extra fees on hotels and declined to pay the hotels the full amounts they claimed they were owed, according to interviews with hotel owners and employees, emails, legal complaints and other documents viewed by The Times. Some hotel operators have sought to file criminal complaints against Oyo, which said it withheld payments primarily over the hotels’ customer service issues.
“It’s a bubble that will burst,” said Saurabh Mukhopadhyay, a former Oyo operations manager in northern India who left the company in September.”
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