"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." – Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.
The woman who fought all the odds to build an empire that is the first of its kind and employs about 10000 people generating a net income of approximately US $100 million today. Yes, I am talking about India's largest pharmaceutical company Biocon that manufactures drugs and researches vigorously on the study of diabetes, oncology and autoimmune diseases. Her simple belief in innovation to conquer biotechnology and introduce India to a world-class platform at an affordable cost makes her the compassionate capitalist.
She is immensely dedicated to changing the face of the healthcare industry. Her brilliant strategies have listed her at 68th position in the Forbes Magazine of 100 most powerful women in the world of 2020. She is currently the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Private Limited and has a net worth of about $3.9 billion. An art lover, she has also authored the book Ale and Arty.
How it All Started?
Kiran was born to Gujarati parents on March 23, 1953, in Bangalore, Karnataka. After her bachelor’s degree in zoology from Bangalore University, she wished to get into medical school but could not in the lack of a scholarship.
Soon her father, who was the head brewmaster at United Breweries, encouraged her to pursue fermentation science and become a brewmaster. With no other options available, Kiran ventured into this non-traditional field, and as fate had it planned, she emerged successful as she topped her class at Melbourne University, Australia. She was the only woman enrolled in the brewing course and earned the brewmaster degree in 1975.
As she looked into the prospects of growing as a brewmaster, she was denied the position in India as "it was the man's job" here. It fueled her to look for opportunities abroad which became the turning point in her career.
Choices, Struggle, and Success
Kiran was offered a position in Scotland in her desired field and was about to move. It was when she met Leslie Auchincloss, the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Cork, Ireland, who needed a partner to establish a subsidiary of the company in India. He soon offered the idea to Kiran, and she agreed with the condition that in case she doesn't wish to continue in six months, she will be guaranteed the brew master's position in the company. She soon learned the business basics in Ireland and returned to India to kickstart her entrepreneurial journey. Little did she know, she would have to push through the surging waves of struggle all alone.
In 1978, Kiran started Biocon India at the garage of her rented house in Bangalore with a capital of only INR 10,000. With a restriction of FDI, she was the 70% sole owner of the brand in India. The technological disability of the country, lack of resources, scientific skills, shortage of workforce, and inexperience forced her to walk through many challenges faced by women entrepreneurs; but she never lost hope. Biocon was the first company to manufacture enzymes and export them to the US and Europe within a year of inception.
She invested the first year’s proceeds in buying a 20-acre property in plans of expansion of the company. As years went by and net income went up, Kiran did not stop there. In 1983, she transformed the enzymes manufacturing company into a biopharmaceutical company focusing on products, innovation, and research of severe health diseases, including oral cancer, psoriasis and diabetic foot. She launched two subsidiaries, Syngene in 1994 and Clinigene in 2000, with the help of the venture capital fund of $250,000 by Narayanan Vaghul of ICICI Ventures in 1987. This fund helped immensely in expansion projects and brought major developments.
No Looking Back
Kiran completely trusted her instincts to see a bright future for Biocon. In 1989, Biocon became the first Indian biotech company to get funding from the US for proprietary technologies. The backing of Unilever post acquiring the company Biocon Biochemicals from Leslie Auchincloss in the same year gave global reach to the companies and flourished it.
However, Unilever sold the chemicals division of Biocon to Imperial Chemical Industries in 1997. When Kiran's expansion plans were not approved by Unilever, the major shareholder, her now-husband, John Shaw, personally raised $2 million and bought the outstanding shares of Biocon from ICI. He soon took over the position of vice-chairman.
In 2004, Biocon went public to raise capital for its future programs. It took the company's revenue straight from 70 crores to 500 crores in the very first year of its listing. After that, Biocon soon broke all the records as it became Asia's largest insulin producer, including Pichia-derived human insulin. By 2014, Biocon managed to contribute 10% of its revenue for R&D, which is a much higher figure than its competitors. Kiran's active participation in the company's portfolio of partnership, acquisition and other decisions makes her an incredible businesswoman.
Philanthropy and Recognitions
This one-woman-driven company changed the face of both entrepreneurship and the standing of women leaders in India. Not just that, through the Biocon Foundation, Kiran establishes rural healthcare and ensures maximum attention is given to people who can't afford medicines and treatment. In association with Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital of Karnataka, Biocon Foundation established seven clinics serving about 300,000 patients through subsidized convenience that benefits the poor greatly. In 2009, Kiran established a 1400-bed cancer center at Narayana Health City Campus as she was greatly affected by her folks' (mother, husband and best friend) suffering from cancer.
She has been recognized nationally and internationally for her immense contributions to the field of science and technology. She received the Padma Shri in 1989, Padma Bhusan in 2005 and was also named the Global Indian Woman in 2012. To this day, she earns awards for her steadfast dedication to her work and society.
A Lot to Learn
Looking at the life of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, we know it was never easy. In fact, it is never meant to be easy. It is not the gender barrier, social limitations, or personal commitments that stop us; only our lack of vision and a hazy future blinds us. Isn't it the only difference between the super successful and the laid back? Time to take back the lessons from the perfect example set of women empowerment by Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and build a life of fulfilling dreams.
We at OpenGrowth, are committed to keeping you updated with the best content on the latest trendy topics from any major field. Also, both your feedback and suggestions are valuable to us. So, do share them in the comment section below.