In 2015 Ruchi Kalra was a partner with McKinsey in their Financial Services practices. 

In 2016 she, along with four co-founders, started OfBusiness, a business that saw the world in raw materials like plastic, steel, almonds where everyone else saw products like bottles, bridges and cookies. By using tech to disintermediate the various buyers and sellers in the raw material supply chain, OfBusiness wanted to make purchases cheaper and faster. 

In 2017 Kalra, again with her four co-founders, one of who also happens to be her husband and former colleague, started another business, Oxyzo. What would it do? It would provide credit to businesses that wanted to buy raw materials. 

Cut to 2023. OfBusiness and Oxyzo are both unicorns. They’re also growing at an incredibly fast rate. Kalra is the CEO of Oxyzo, while also doubling up as the CFO of OfBusiness. 

Last year OfBusiness drove around Rs.7,500 crore of sales, says Kalra. Which is slated to jump to over Rs.20,000 crore this year. In the same period Oxyzo’s balance sheet size as a lender will swell from Rs.3,500 crore to Rs.5,000 crore. 

For these numbers, the two sibling unicorns employ just about 1000 professionals between them. 

“If I were to do a rough employee-to-valuation calculation, that would place you in, I’m guessing, one of the highest…” 

Kalra cuts me off. 

“I think more than the employee-to-valuation, it’s more an employee-to-profit calculation.”

That’s because the B2B siblings also both profitable. Together they are slated to grow their profit after tax (a phrase that’s quite rare in the unicorn space) 150% over the last year, to Rs500 crore. 

Kalra starting at McKinsey after an engineering degree from IIT Delhi and an MBA from ISB is a pattern easy to understand. What’s not so easy is how and why she decided to quit after making partner, and start a business in a very different and “uncool” sector.

In a candid and reflective conversation, Kalra talks about career choices, business building, market sizing, operational discipline, and her own transformation from an executive to a founder, and finally, leader. It’s a masterclass on how starting up later in life often brings perspectives and experiences that are hard for others to replicate.

We normally record First Principles episodes inside a professional studio, but this episode was recorded inside one of the meeting rooms at Oxyzo’s buzzing Gurugram offices in December. Which is why, in spite of our best efforts, the audio will sound a bit different. 

A big shout out to my colleague Rahul Chaudhary who diligently helps me with the transcripts each fortnight.