Get an insight into what sets Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – the Biotech queen apart from the rest.
The road less traveled
If somebody were to pen an autobiography about Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, it would probably be called ‘The Road Less Traveled’. Way back in the early 70s nobody would have even guessed that you could study a subject called brewing or fermentation, let alone have a career in it.
But this is exactly what Mazumdar Shaw did. Armed with a degree in Zoology from the Bangalore University, she decided to study brewing at the Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education (now University of Ballarat). She successfully qualified as a master brewer in 1974. Her professional career kick-started immediately and she joined Carlton and United Beverages as a trainee brewer. Four years later she changed tracks to join the Irish company Biocon Biochemicals Limited as a Trainee Manager. Not quite content with being just an employee, the same year Mazumdar Shaw took the bold step of founding Biocon India in collaboration with the parent company Biocon Biochemicals. In retrospect, calling it a bold step seems to be an understatement as her capital investment was a paltry Rs 10,000. She also had to encounter not so helpful banks that were quite clueless about biotechnology. In addition, it was unusual to see a woman entrepreneur approaching them to set up an industry in the field of biological sciences.
Mazumdar Shaw set doable goals. Her initial operations included developing a process to extract papain, an enzyme from papaya. This fermentation process made way to develop processes for many other industrial enzymes. By 1990, Biocon India became proficient enough to start an in-house research programme, in solid substrate fermentation technology, which allowed it to produce enzymes from pilot to plant level.
Mazumdar Shaw, however, wasn’t satisfied. The visionary in her saw that Biocon had potential to enter the field of biopharmaceuticals. She, thus, initiated strategic research programs. In 1994, Biocon established Syngene International Private Limited as a Custom Research Company (CRC) under the stewardship of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. In 2000, Biocon established Clinigene, India's first Clinical Research Organisation (CRO).
Monetarily the company made news when it came up with an IPO in 2004 and to its delight the issue was oversubscribed thirty times over. For Mazumdar Shaw it was a vindication of years of hard work and patience. She was regarded as India’s richest woman with an estimated worth of Rs. 2,100 crore (Rs 2 1,000 million). With a huge campus on Hosur Road in Bangalore, Mazumdar Shaw’s labor of love has come a long way from the humble beginnings in her garage.
Winner takes it all
It’s difficult to ignore such achievements, and Mazumdar Shaw’s efforts have been duly acknowledged. She’s been the recipient of several awards over the years. Some prominent ones include the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Healthcare & Life Sciences Category in 2002, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Chamber of Commerce in 2005, and the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award in 2006. The Government of India conferred her with Padmashri (1989) and Padma Bhushan (2005). But the award she values the most is the one named after the great engineer and visionary Sir M Vishweshwariah, the MV Memorial Award.
Besides her hectic professional life, Mazumdar Shaw has also penned a coffee table book titled 'Ale and Arty'. She’s made sure that Biocon has an active corporate social responsibility and is active in the field of public health and education. She also heads the Vision Group on Biotechnology for the state of Karnataka and was instrumental in making Bangalore a ‘Biotech Hub’.
There are only some people who can lead among the multitudes who are more comfortable in being led. What differentiates them from others?