Jeremy Sanders is Head of UK at OYO Hotels & Homes – the world’s sixth largest hotel chain which was founded in India in 2013 and dominates the South Asian market. Under Jeremy’s leadership, OYO has grown its UK presence to over 70 hotels representing 1,600+ rooms across the UK, all within its first eight months. It is continuing to identify and invest in independently run, small- and mid-sized hotels, with the aim of improving the hotels’ performance and upgrading the guest experience. Before OYO, Jeremy co-founded the Italian restaurant chain Coco di Mama after spotting a gap in the market for good quality, quick-service Italian food. From its first outlet on Fleet Street, Coco di Mama expanded to 20 London restaurants before it was sold to a private equity company. Jeremy has a degree in Social Policy and Sociology from LSE and an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
1 Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?
I’m a Londoner born and bred, so it’s hard to choose anywhere other than London. I love the sheer variety London offers, the sense of opportunity it provides, the feeling that anyone from any walk of life can feel comfortable and at home here. Plus, I’m a huge Spurs fan!
2 What are your proudest achievements?
I still get a thrill passing Coco di Mama, knowing it was a business I helped to build through perseverance and passion. The speed at which OYO is scaling up in the UK makes me very proud though – it’s great to feel we’re making an impact in a tough market.
3 What inspires you?
My ‘what’ is actually a ‘who’. I’m inspired by my dad, who still works as a doctor aged 85. He’s a real expert at what he does and after 60 plus years, still bounces out of bed every day, full of excitement for his job.
4 What has been biggest obstacle in your career?
I feel incredibly lucky in saying that I’ve not faced major obstacles in my career. I have a very supportive family who’ve encouraged me to push myself and do what I love; and I’ve found some brilliant mentors who have been generous with their time and advice.
5 Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date? I would have to say Lord Stuart Rose, our chairman at Coco di Mama, who is a highly experienced retailer and someone who really understands consumers and how to build teams. I’m also influenced by Ritesh Agarwal, who founded OYO aged 19 – his vision and drive are remarkable.
6 What is the best aspect about your current role?
OYO came to the UK because we saw an opportunity to help the owners of small, independent and often family-run hotels improve their businesses. It’s our mission to solve the problems they face, so it’s incredibly satisfying hearing from owners how our support through transformation, technology and more have helped their hotels thrive.
7 And the worst?
I’m sure other business leaders would agree that there’s never enough time! At OYO, we’re incredibly ambitious and we’re building our team as quickly as we’re bringing new hotels under the brand so there’s rarely an empty hour in the diary. That’s also part of the excitement, though.
8 What are your long term goals?
I’d like to replicate the phenomenal success OYO has achieved in Asia by building the chain into the number one player in the UK hospitality industry. We’re operating in a different sector of the hotel market to other brands, so there is huge opportunity for us.
9 If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
I’m extremely passionate about the hospitality industry and its contribution to the UK economy, so if I was PM, I would look at how to elevate the sector and help it thrive. Hospitality is a wonderful place for young people to begin their careers and the learning and development opportunities it offers are undervalued.
10 If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why.
I’m fascinated by Winston Churchill. He’s one of the most important figures in British history and from what I’ve read about him, he was incredibly bright, very complex and also extremely entertaining. That strikes me as a good combination for passing the time on a desert island.