She Told The World That You Can Be A Woman Who Is An Entrepreneur: Interview With Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Posted on April 2, 2013 in Entrepreneurship, Interviews

By Shivangi Singh:

From the Padma Shree to the Padma Bhushan to being in TIME magazine’s ‘Most Influential People’ list, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is one of the most inspirational women in India and the world. Read what the Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Limited has to say about her company, her dreams, her passion and the way she achieved it all.


When you donned the entrepreneur’s cap the world was gender biased. Do you feel the phenomenon continues? If yes, how is it manifested in the 21st century?

Yes, there is perceptible gender discrimination when it comes to women entrepreneurs even today. Funding favours male entrepreneurs. Having said that, there are a number of women specific soft loans and seed funding which is available to aspiring women entrepreneurs.

What is the difference between the global business scene and the corresponding Indian scenario for biotechnology in general and Biocon in specific?

India ranks 4th globally in the Biotech sector. Its current $5 billion size is poised to attain a size of $100 billion by 2025 through leadership in Biogenerics, Bt crops, gene sequencing and Biofuels.

Biocon is ranked 20th in size globally and the 7th largest Biotech employer. Biocon is the only Asian Biotech company to feature amongst the world’s Top 25 Biotech companies.

Why did you choose this industry? When and how was an entrepreneur born in you? How difficult was it for you to pave your way as an industrialist?

I chose to become an entrepreneur due to an adverse set of circumstances that did not allow me a fair employment opportunity in my field of Brewing. I started Biocon as a fall back option to apply my Brewing knowledge to a related field – enzymes. My determination to succeed and prove to the gender biased world that women can make good business managers brought out my entrepreneurial qualities. My journey has been challenging all the way. First I had to overcome credibility challenges as a young, inexperienced woman of 25 trying to pioneer a new sector – Biotechnology. Then I had technological challenges of funding and scaling up a home grown proprietary fermentation based enzymes technology. I then had evolutionary and regulatory challenges of transforming the business from enzymes to Biopharmaceuticals. Today it’s innovation challenges of bringing new drugs to global markets. I am also addressing a new set of challenges that are about managing overseas operations in US, Europe, UAE and Malaysia. Overcoming each set of challenges has enabled me to augment my stature as a business leader.

You started with the dream of becoming a Doctor but ultimately followed your heart and set an example for all students. In a country where parents see only Engineering and Medicine as decent career options, how can a person truly follow their dreams without hurting their family?

The opportunities in every field are so vast and exciting that every young person can pursue their passion. India in the ’60s was an under resourced country with limited job opportunities. India today is a rapidly developing economy where the even the sky is not the limit!

What is your vision for Biocon? What philanthropic activities are you looking forward to be a part of in the near future?

I see Biocon as the torch bearer of innovation from India that makes global impact in Diabetes, Cancer and Immunological disorders. I see Biocon as a leading Insulins and Antibody company that delivers affordable drugs to patients across the world.

Our philanthropy is therefore invested in India’s quest for universal healthcare that provides Right to Healthcare. My personal philanthropy is in Cancer care where I have partnered with Dr Devi Shetty to establish the country’s largest Cancer hospital, The Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Center.

From the Padma Shree to the Padma Bhushan to being in TIME magazine’s ‘Most Influential People’ list- you’ve won lots of awards. If you had to choose any one which remains closest to your heart, which would that be?

Every one of these recognitions is special and something I will always cherish. The Padma awards are most special as they are symbols of national pride. I am a very proud Indian.

What would be your message to the youth of the nation? In your opinion, how important is it for the youth to voice themselves and participate in shaping the future of the world’s largest democracy?

The youth have the moral responsibility to lead the country into the future. They represent more than 50% of our population and therefore must show courage and leadership by engaging in all aspects of our democratic processes to truly realize our demographic dividend.