Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, a self-made entrepreneur is India’s richest woman. She is the founder of Biocon Limited in India and it is the largest bio pharmaceuticals around the world. Born in Bangalore to Gujarati parents in 1968, she aspired to attend medical college after completing her schooling, but failed to obtain a scholarship.
Her father used to work at United Breweries as a brew master. He suggested Kiran to study fermentation science, despite being an unusual field of study for women. Kiran got enrolled in Federation University, Australia to study malting and brewing. The only female student in the class, she topped the batch and earned her master brewer degree in 1975.
She started her career as a trainee brewer in Carlton and United Breweries, Malborne. After working in Australia for a short period of time, she started looking for a job in India. She was denied the job of master brewer in India because it was considered as a ‘man’s work’. She was successful in gaining a job in Scotland as a master brewer.
While working in Scotland, she met the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Laslie Auchincloss who was looking for an Indian entrepreneur to help him in establishing Biocon subsidiary in India. Mazumdar agreed to the offer on the condition that she would be guaranteed a job equal to that of what she was giving up, if she leaves the job after six months.
She worked at Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland for a short period of time to learn more about the business. Kiran returned to Indiain 1978 and laid the foundation of Biocon India in the garage of her rented house in Bengaluru with a capital of Rs. 10,000. As, Indian laws prohibited foreign national to hold more than 30% of the ownership of the company, Kiran owned 70% of the joint venture.
Initially, she suffered series of setbacks. She was facing serious funding problems. The banks were not ready to lend her loan. Finally, Kiran got her loan approved after a chance meeting with a banker at the party. With the sanctioned amount, she established a 3,000 square-foot shed industry. Next big problem she faced was difficulty in recruiting employees for her new start-up. Her first employee was a retired car mechanic.
The start-up initially engaged in the enzyme manufacturing business. A year later, Biocon became the first company in India to export enzymes to the US and Europe. The next achievement was buying a 20-acre property from her year savings for future expansion of the company. From that moment, Kiran and her company Biocon has never looked back. She established an empire out of the company that was just enzymes producing entity to fully integrated bio-pharmaceutical company within two decades.
Kiran established two subsidiaries, Syngene in 1994 and Clinigene in 2000. Clinigene was later merged with Syngene, a company engaged in research and developing both generic and new medicines. The company got listed on BSE/NSE in 2015 and has a current market cap of $1.15 billion.
She is involved in several philanthropic activities and has received a number of awards for the same. Although, Kiran dislikes the term ‘philanthropy’ as she believes that it only indicates temporary attachment rather than the permanent one.
Kiran chose the difficult path over the usual journey. Her strength to twist and turn through the life made her stand apart from the crowd. Her success reflects in the lion’s share of her company-Biocon in pharmaceuticals industry. At present, she serves as the chairman and managing director of Biocon limited. She also featured twice in the list of Forbes most powerful women in the world.