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BW Businessworld

Expanding Horizons: Annu Talreja, Founder & CEO, OxfordCaps

It clocked a 75 folds growth in less than 11 months since its launch in India.

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Business is changing every day. A lot of changes are happening at the ground level and in the technology world. Navigating through these changes is one such woman entrepreneur. Annu Talreja, Founder & CEO, OxfordCaps, is an INSEAD graduate, with 11-plus years of real estate development, transaction and asset management experience across APAC: Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, China & India. Leveraging on her experience in the real estate and hospitality industry, she, along with her co-founder Priyanka Gera, started OxfordCaps.

Founded in 2017, OxfordCaps is an international standard students’ residences provider, creating a technology-enabled and community-driven living experience designed for the Gen Z students in India, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The student residences have been designed to provide a great living environment, which is hassle-free, including all kinds of basic and premium amenities such as well-furnished rooms, reading areas, Wi-Fi services, professional housekeeping, security provisions, transport facilities and nutritious meals.

OxfordCaps provides a custom-designed and standardised student housing product with a full-stack model of services and amenities. The projects and services are standardised within the OxfordCaps brand services guidelines, providing a transparent, hassle-free and safe alternative to a market dominated largely by the unorganised paying guest segment till date. 

The company has clocked a 75X growth in less than 11 months since its launch in India and has expanded from 200 beds to over 15,000 beds across 12 cities. OxfordCaps aims to grow its operations across education hubs in India, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Greater Noida, Dehradun, Indore, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

About the key challenges faced by her in the journey, Annu said: “One of the biggest challenges I faced in my journey was to build a capable and passionate team, who believe in your vision, and are willing to work hard for it. This challenge is further amplified if you are a woman as unconscious biases often don’t allow people to imagine women in leadership roles. I have had interviewees actually ask me if I worked in the organisation in HR or admin role and some who asked me what time I personally left work every day. As a woman in one of the most male-dominated industries (real estate), I have developed my own mechanisms to deal with such biases. They have to be dealt with internally as well as externally. Internally, I have always accepted that the world is not fair. Such biases are not just gender-based, they could be based on colour, height, etc. Once you accept this as a person, you start focusing on the solution rather than the problem. This lets you deal with the problem externally by focusing on how you can break these biases and lead by example.”

On her biggest learnings, she adds “My biggest learning building OxfordCaps so far is also that people are your biggest asset, a company is as good as its team. Building something ground-up needs an entire village of people who not only share work assignments and meals, but who work together as if their fates were bound with each other. At Oxfordcaps, we are extremely fortunate to have a team like this and hence our attrition rates are near zero.”

On why she deserves to be part of the BW Businessworld 40 under 40 lists she says“I believe my perseverance is my biggest strength and has led me to my current position in my professional and personal life. Coming from a traditional Sindhi business family, I was the first graduate in my entire extended family. I have supported myself and my education since high school through scholarships and Adhoc part-time jobs.”      

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