“I have never let gender get in my way. It has taken me over 30 years to get from a garage to the huge campus that we have today. And it’s been a long journey.”
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Founder &Chairperson, Biocon)
Launched with a humble seed capital of Rs. 10,000 in 1978 by a young and passionate 25-year-old entrepreneur in Bangalore (India), Biocon has become India’s most respected and top biotechnology and pharmaceutical company. No price for guessing, the woman behind this most successful biotech company is none other than Kiran Mazumdar Shaw whose exemplary leadership and brilliant philosophies are an inspiration for the entire business fraternity.
A first-generation entrepreneur, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw has many firsts to her name, and her accolades are too many to list. She is the first Indian businesswoman to reach USD 1 billion, even as she works tirelessly to deliver affordable treatments to patients via her biotechnology enterprise.
THE JOURNEY TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Kiran was always inclined towards studies. She pursued B.Sc in Zoology from Bangalore University. With a thirst to gain more knowledge, she went to Australia for post-graduation. She became the only woman to enrol herself in the brewing course at Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education in Melbourne. In 1974, she got her first job and started working as a trainee brewer with Carlton and United Beverages. She worked there for 4 years; post this, her life took a major turn.
In 1978, Shaw joined Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland as a Trainee Manager which helped her understand the revenue model of the company. After joining the company, she established the Indian arm of the company in the same year. She rented a garage space in Bangalore with an initial investment of only Rs. 10,000, and started her welcoming entrepreneurial journey.
“I call myself an accidental entrepreneur. I was all set to take up a brewing job in Scotland when a chance encounter with an Irish entrepreneur-led me to set up a biotech business in India instead,” says Kiran.
THE WARRIOR WITHIN
The challenges in Kiran’s entrepreneurial life were many to list. Since biotechnology was a new field during those times, it became too difficult for her to take bank loans. Women entrepreneurs back then were quite rare to be seen. Some would even ask her father Rasendra Mazumdar to be a guarantor.
Furthermore, recruiting and hiring the right set of people for her startup was a cumbersome process and enough to deter young Kiran. But she never gave up, as she knew great things always take time, therefore she stayed patient. She found a retired garage mechanic who became the first employee of the company, followed by a few brave folks.
Uninterrupted power, sterile labs, superior quality power, imported research equipment, and workers with advanced scientific knowledge were not easily available in India but all these challenges could not stop Kiran to set the path for the growth and diversification of Biocon.
In her words, “I faced a number of challenges whilst I built Biocon. I had credibility challenges where I couldn’t get banks to fund me; I couldn’t recruit people to work for a woman boss. Even in the businesses where I had to procure raw materials, they didn’t want to deal with women.”
INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY
Kiran’s resilience, strength in the face of adversity, and a strong sense of purpose make her someone entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders look up to.
She believes that there should be a sense of purpose; that purpose will drive people to succeed. This sense of purpose does not have to be the same throughout. When Kiran started her career, her purpose was concentrated on her company, however, it has changed over time and shifted to involve many other things as well.
Furthermore, Kiran believes in empowering, mentoring, trusting, and enabling leaders at multiple levels in her team. She provides ample opportunities to them to grow their leadership potential.
The future is built on the flow of new ideas. She is highly result oriented and always keeps herself open to new ideas and opinions.
BIOCON: INDIA’S LARGEST PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY
Biocon is a global biopharmaceutical company changing patients’ lives in over 120 countries by inventing new and affordable methods to treat diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. From pipeline to production, from drug discovery to drug delivery, Biocon brings differentiated, high-quality and affordable healthcare products to communities across the globe.
Powered by advanced therapy platforms, its 35000+ highly skilled and talented workforce blend heart, science, and creativity to make better healthcare solutions. Biocon has 4 global businesses– Generics, Biosimilars, Research Services, and Novel Biologics. They represent Biocon’s risk-balanced strategy, underpinned by agile network connections, a robust pipeline and a timely ‘emerging markets’ orientation.
Biocon is relentlessly working towards achieving health equity by making medicines more easily accessible for patients across the globe.
Biocon is committed to providing everyone, everywhere, affordable access to a speciality portfolio of medicines. It is steadfastly investing in developing novel therapies for diabetes, oncology & immunology and is strengthening its global reach and economies of scale.
KIRAN’S STRATEGIC VISION FOR BIOCON
Kiran envisions enhancing global healthcare through innovative and affordable biopharmaceuticals for patients, partners and healthcare systems worldwide.
Kiran wishes to see Biocon becoming an integrated biotechnology enterprise of global distinction. Essential to this mission is excellence in:
- Intellectual asset creation through discovery, research and development
- State-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities
- Internationally benchmarked quality and regulatory systems
- New medical insight through disease-specific clinical research
- Customer relationship through outstanding products and services
- Human resource development through training, mentoring and empowering
- Management of research and business partnerships
HER WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ASPIRING WOMEN LEADERS
Kiran Mazumdar is a role model that all budding women entrepreneurs look by and take inspiration from. She advises women entrepreneurs to:
Develop A Sense of Purpose:
Businesses should be driven by a sense of purpose and always be open to facing and conquering challenges. When Kiran started Biocon, the resources were limited, the infrastructure was primitive and had to work in a hostile business environment but it was that consistent passion and self-belief that helped her to succeed against all odds. She advises entrepreneurs to challenge themselves and stand out from the crowd. “Don’t be a me-too entrepreneur! Think about how you can be differentiated, even if it is in a similar business line,” reiterates Kiran.
Evolve and Change Over Time:
Business visions evolve and change over time, that’s what Kiran believes she has learnt as an entrepreneur. Biocon’s vision has always pushed Kiran to think of ‘out of the box’ solutions. Kiran suggests budding women entrepreneurs to evolve with time which would surely help them find better prospects of growth.
Pick The Right Talent:
As per Kiran, building a dream team that understands your vision and takes it forward is challenging yet the key to sky-high growth. Kiran says, To support the vision, it’s highly potent for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with a team of people with complementary skills and behaviour.
Build An Effective Business Model:
One of the difficult challenges that any entrepreneur faces is building an effective business model. They must know how to market their product/ service keeping in mind the target group as well.
KIRAN’S LOVE FOR READING
Books encourage self-educating, self-improvement, and success, and reading them provides leaders with tips and business strategies, and above all, inspiration. Kiran has read many books over the years. Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, The First Cell: And The Human Costs Of Pursuing Cancer To The Last by Azra Raza, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari, Leapfrogging To Pole-Vaulting, Creating The Magic Of Radical Yet Sustainable Transformation By Raghunath Mashelkar & Ravi Pandit, The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot are a few to list.
AN INSPIRATION FOR ALL
When Kiran started out, women were not considered risk-takers, not aggressive and competitive enough, lacking the big picture. Kiran challenged these preconceived notions and grabbed the eyeballs of the entire corporate fraternity. She speaks her mind, with fierce conviction, along with compassion and empathy.
“I want to be remembered as someone who put India on the scientific map of the world in terms of large innovation. I want to be remembered for making a difference to global healthcare. And I want to be remembered as someone who did make a difference to social-economic development in India.”