We’ve seen a few “sheroes” in the last few decades confronting standards with lots of grit and zeal. They are women of their own making who have continuously improved our next generation of female entrepreneurs. Among them, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, is the Chief Managing Director of Biocon Limited; a business which was valued in billions at first IPO and Chairman Syngene International.
Who is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw?
She was born on March 23rd, 1953 in Pune, Maharashtra state, India. An Indian businesswoman who, as chairman and managing director of Biocon India Group, led a pioneering enterprise that utilized India’s homegrown scientific talent to make breakthroughs in clinical research.
The daughter of a brewmaster for India-based United Breweries, Mazumdar-Shaw originally planned to follow in her father’s footsteps. She followed an undergraduate degree in zoology from Bangalore University in 1973 and a graduate degree in brewing from the University of Ballarat, Melbourne, in 1975. Upon returning to India, however, she found that no companies were willing to offer a brewing job to a woman. So, instead of that, she did consulting work for a few years before meeting Leslie Auchincloss, then owner of an Irish firm, Biocon Biochemicals. Auchincloss was impressed by Mazumdar-Shaw’s drive and ambition, he took her on as a partner in a new venture, Biocon India, which was launched in 1978 and produced enzymes for alcoholic beverages, paper, and other products.
Kiran calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur”, starting Biocon when she was discriminated against as a woman while applying for the job of a brewmaster. She set up Biocon in 1978, initially focusing on the enzyme industry, and made a strategic shift to the biopharmaceutical industry as it was a much bigger opportunity ; riding the shift in cancer care from chemotherapy to immunotherapy.
Starting up at the age of 25, in a field that was not understood by many, raising capital was not an easy task. Especially, at a time when a woman entrepreneur without collateral was considered a high financial and business risk. Hiring talent was another challenge. As Kiran started building her company, she aggressively pursued building the team, hiring people with complementary skills to form the core team, incentivising them with rich stock options.
In 2004, Kiran did a lot of roadshows and went IPO, to raise capital for the business. She wasn’t concerned about raising the value of the company, but made sure it was profitable in the last four quarters before going public and had clear visibility on profits in the foreseeable future. She says today’s companies are topline-driven in contrast to her business that is “bottom line-driven”.
Within a year Biocon had become the first Indian company to export enzymes to the United states but, the progress was slow as she found it difficult to find employees and as well as investors in India who were willing to work for a woman. After all the struggles and hardships once again she proved herself.
In 2001 Biocon became the first Indian company to gain the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the manufacture of a cholesterol-lowering molecule. The company subsequently expanded exponentially. Profits jumped more than 42 percent in 2003 alone and Mazumdar-Shaw, with a nearly 40-percent stake in the company, became the richest woman in India. Over the following years, Biocon continued its trail-blazing work, with the testing and development of the world’s first orally consumed insulin product among its most notable undertakings.
Meanwhile, Mazumdar-Shaw became the recipient of numerous awards. The World Economic Forum (an international conference for the discussion of world economic, political, and social development) recognized her as a “Technology Pioneer” in 2000, and Ernst & Young named her best entrepreneur in the field of healthcare and life sciences in 2002. She was honoured as the businesswoman of the year by the Economic Times in 2004. In 2005 Mazumdar-Shaw also received the Padma Bhushan Award, one of India’s highest civilian honours, for her pioneering work in industrial biotechnology.
Kiran has set a great example for the entrepreneurs who are struggling out there to achieve something. She came across many instances, where she could have given up but she did not and finally her hard work paid off.
“Failure is temporary, but giving up is final”. — Kiran Mazumdar.
So, If she could do it, why not me..?