Söderström to invest in OYO and join Vacation Homes board

New Delhi: OYO and its European business of OYO Vacation Homes [OVH] have announced that Martin HP Söderström has joined the company’s board in the region as a non-executive director.

As a mark of his trust and commitment towards the company, Söderström will also be buying shares worth an undisclosed amount in the parent company.

Belvilla, along with its sister brands, including DanCenter, Danland, Traum Ferienwohnugen, Stugsommar, TUI Ferienhaus which are a part of the OYO family, offers a choice of vacation homes to customers across Europe, such as in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Nordic and Southern European countries.

With OYO’s vacation homes business going from niche to mainstream within just one year, it is therefore a large and critical part of the company’s global business, and OYO says that it is committed to investing and growing the segment. In recent months, an additional 3,400 homeowners throughout Europe have joined the company, adding more than 5,000 homes to the current portfolio of the company.

The move is a welcome development as OYO, through its brands such as Belvilla, DanCenter, Traum Ferienwohnungen and Stugsommar, is doubling down on its sustainable growth and presence in the region, given the strong trend of customers choosing vacation homes as an “overwhelmingly better alternative” to larger-star hotels. After the recent conclusion of the acquisition of TUI Ferienhaus business from e-domizil GmbH, the company now claims to be the second-largest globally in the vacation homes space by number of homes.

As a member of the board, Söderström will work closely with the management team of OYO to drive continued and sustainable growth in the company. He will provide guidance on potential M&A opportunities and assist the organisation in building deep strategic partnerships with other leading EU-based companies, as well as laying out the brand’s positioning strategy as a thought leader in the vacation rental space.

With a strong background in banking, specifically corporate finance advisory and strategic M&As, and deep expertise in the private banking and family office market, Söderström is a veteran in building and growing technology-led companies and a notable name in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

He is chairman of DIG Investment, a private investment office focused on direct investments in the global alternatives market, which he founded in 2011. Its primary area of investments are in tech-related companies in the growth to pre-IPO phase.

Today, DIG Investment has a portfolio in Asia, Europe and the USA within consumer brands, shared economies, retail and hospitality.

Söderström is the chairman and founder of HMP [private office], HH&P Executive Search [HR/ Recruitment] and HM Philip [advisory boutique]. He is also the founding member of Brilliant Minds [a symposium held in Stockholm] and DJURSHOLM Country Club [a family members club in Stockholm].

In addition, he is on the Board of Ocean Outdoor [digital out of home], Randviken [real estate), and Grundens [commercial and sport-fishing apparel] and serves as a Senior Advisor at Polar Structure [infrastructure in the Nordics], supporting and guiding a large group of Swedish and international single-family offices.

Söderström’s appointment further signals OYO’s commitment towards strengthening its corporate governance globally. The company had earlier appointed Troy Alstead, the former COO of Starbucks, Gerardo Issac [Gerry] Lopez, operating partner at SoftBank Vision Fund, Betsy Atkins, CEO and founder of Baja Corporation and Dr W. Steve Albrecht as the members of OYO’s global board.

OYO Vacation Homes, today offers fully managed, private homes in desirable locations under multiple brands, including Belvilla, DanCenter, Danland, Traum-Ferienwohnungen, and the recently acquired TUI Ferienhaus. With over 50,000 homeowners, 140,000 homes in 70 countries worldwide and 2.8 million guests annually, OVH is already a leading player in the European holiday home market.

OYO Hotels & Homes is anchoring its road to recovery, as the company evolves from being a ‘resilient brand’ to a ‘resurgent brand’ with strong and healthy booking and occupancy trends in Europe.

Its brand DanCenter recorded significant growth of 137 per cent in its last-minute bookings while Belvilla’s last-minute bookings increased by 56 per cent in July and August.

This trend is explained by the preference of travellers towards holiday homes in today’s uncertain times, as the same offers private space while maintaining distance from others.

Commenting on the development, Ritesh Agarwal, founder and group CEO of OYO Hotels & Homes, said: “For OYO, its customers and homeowners in the EU region, especially in the Nordics, hold immense strategic importance. Given Martin’s deep understanding of the region and strong business acumen, I am elated to welcome him as an investor and a fellow board member at OYO Europe.

“He has a proven track record of investing and growing tech-focused businesses in India and globally with immense knowledge about the Asian and global entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem. We are positive that his deep experience in M&As and working with high-growth companies will add a lot of value to our growth journey in Europe, both organic and inorganic, and support us in our long-term goal of an IPO.

“Today, OYO’s Vacation Home business in Europe is leading OYO’s road to recovery, given customers’ trust and continued preference for small and independent boutique homes and hotels over large five-star properties.

“I see this trend of small hotels and vacation homes leading a structural change in the industry, and I believe ‘small is the new big’. We are already seeing this in action in the form of healthy booking, occupancies and revenue trends.

“I must add that my first interaction with Martin happened over a long call where I was in a small hill town in India and he was in Sweden. That day made me realise two things.

“One, how technology is breaking boundaries, and two, how we both have common aspirations of creating an impact by generating employment opportunities, supporting entrepreneurs and creating better living spaces across Europe, Scandinavia and the world at large. I look forward to working with Martin,” he added.

As the world continues to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and certain economies begin to open up, OYO says it has started seeing green shoots of progress and recovery. It claims that occupancies and demand have shown an upward trend across its brands, highlighting a new trend of people working from a holiday home, while advance bookings under these brands continue to rise.