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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw- A Self-Made Woman

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We often have heard about successful Indian businessmen but a success story of a self-made Indian woman is not what we get to hear often. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, a woman entrepreneur and the founder of a biopharmaceutical firm is today one of the richest people in India. Today she is a proud woman who is the company Biocon’s CEO and one of the many billionaires in India.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s Early Life And Education

Kiran was born in Pune to a Gujarati family on 23 March 1953. Her father worked in United Breweries as the Brewmaster Head. She did her early education at Bishop Cotton High School and Mount Carmel in Bangalore. Mazumdar always wanted to study medicine but could because she did not receive a scholarship. She graduated in 1973 from Banglore University with a zoology degree. Her father encouraged her to study fermentation and become a brewmaster, despite it being a very non-traditional field for women to work in back then. It was then when she decided to pursue a master’s in Malting and Brewing from Ballarat University, in Australia. Despite being the only woman in her course, she topped the class and became a brewmaster. She worked first as Trainee brewer and then as a trainee maltster in Carlton and United Breweries and Barrett Brothers and Burston respectively. She returned to India and worked in Jupiters Breweries Ltd as a technical consultant in 1975 and then as a technical manager in a brewery in Baroda. In 1977, when she was looking for options in Delhi or Bangalore she was told in India, women are not a fit for working as a master brewer. It was then when decided to look for opportunities abroad and eventually went to Scotland.

She married John Shaw in 1998, who was Madura Coats chairman then but resigned in 2001 to become Biocon’s Vice Chairman.

Biocon- A New Turn In Mazumdar’s Life

Kiran met Leslie Auchincloss, Biocon Biochemicals Limited founder, a company in Cork, Ireland. His firm uses to produce enzymes that were used in the Textile, brewing, and food-packaging industries. Leslie was looking for a person with whom he could become his partner as well as help him to establish a subsidiary in India. He was looking for import of Papain from India. It was Mazumdar who agreed to close a deal with him. She said she would want him to appoint her as a brewmaster if she does not want to continue the partnership as she was giving up her current role.

To gain Knowledge of Leslie’s business, Mazumdar joined his company as a trainee manager for six months.

Beginning with Papain and Isinglass

In 1978 Mazumdar returned to India borrowed INR 10,000 and established her firm, by renting a garage in Bangalore, hence, the location of Biocon Limited, Bengaluru, Karnataka. Her entrepreneurial life, in the beginning, was very difficult. The banks initially did not trust her with loans and not even believed her idea as a women entrepreneur who dealt with biotechnology was not common. Mazumdar had trouble convincing people to join her firm. She even had recruitment-related troubles and the first person who agreed to work for her was a retired mechanic. Access to good quality water, uninterrupted power supply, scientifically skilled workers, advanced research equipment, and sterile labs were also not easily available for her start-up. Despite facing problems related to gender stereotypes and cash crunch, she continued to work and did not give up.

After a year of setting up the business, Mazumdar was able to buy a 20-acre plot to expand her setup from the profits she earned and started exporting the enzymes she produced to Europe and the United States.

Also Read: Vandana Luthra – The Founder of VLCC – An Inspiration to the Women of India

Expansion of Biocon

Mazumdar firm soon started manufacturing Biopharmaceutical products and established a fully integrated company. Their product portfolio was very diverse and they even focused on the research of auto-immune diseases, oncology, and diabetes. The support of Narayanan Vaghul (the chairman of ICICI Bank then) with a capital of US$250,000 was the firm’s first-ever expansion. With this fund, Mazumdar could increase the efforts and spend more on Research and development. In 1990 she assimilated “Biocon Biopharmaceuticals Private Limited” (BBLP) with the “Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology” to market and manufacture a specific biotherapeutics range. In 1994 she established Syngene, which was a subsidiary and focused on providing support services for early R&D based on a contract. Clinigene was another subsidiary established by her in 2000 that focused on the development of new as well as generic medicines and also on clinical research trials. In 2005 Sygene after acquiring Clinigene got listed in the Bombay Stock Exchange as well as National Stock Exchange.

A Step Towards Independence

In 1889, Uniliver acquired Biocon Biochemical situated in Ireland. This partnership helped Biocon in establishing a quality system and the best practice all over the world. The chemical division of Uniliver including Biocon was bought by Imperial Chemical Industries in 1997. But, John Shaw, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw‘s husband bought the outstanding shares of Biocon from ICI the next year.

After listing on the stock exchange, Biocon’s share price increased that made the company cross $1 Billion on the very first day.

One of the reasons for the firm’s expansion is the CEO’s mindset to have an affordable innovation. She always focused on finding low-cost alternatives and cost-effective techniques when it came to drug needs in less developed countries. This business strategy of Kiran Shaw led Biocon share price rise to 397.80 INR as of 27th April 2021 according to the reports of NSE (National Stock Exchange of India Ltd.).

Philanthropic Activities Of Mazumdar

Kiran Mazumdar established a CSR wing in her firm known as Biocon Foundation in 2004 that focused on infrastructure, education, and health facilities in the rural area, especially in Karnataka. Rather than using the world philanthropy, she preferred addressing the activity as a compassionate capitalist. She even joined “the Giving Pledge” where she promised on dedicating a minimum of 50% of her earnings to the social cause.

She supported Arogya Raksha Yojana by joining hands with Devi Shetty and established care clinics for the people who could not afford medical facilities.

She has a foundation named “Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation” which is also an NPO and supports patients with cancer.

Mazumdar collaborated in 2006 with McMillan India Limited to help with the development and use of basic Mathematic schoolbooks in Kannada schools. She even created the ‘Biocon Cell for Innovation Management’ at ISB in 2009 for funding a multi-year research program.

Awards and Recognition

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw net worth as of 2021 is USD 410 Crores. She is an inspiration to Indian women as she is what she is today because of her own hard work.

Related Article: The Bold and Beautiful: Falguni Nayar

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Kiara Dutta
Kiara Dutta comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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