Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: How Biocon Founder Became Indiaโ€™s First Biotech Queen?

Manav Makhija Manav Makhija
Jul 20, 2022 9 min read
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: How Biocon Founder Became Indiaโ€™s First Biotech Queen?

India is among the top 12 biotechnology destinations in the world, comprising around 600 biotech companies. In this article, you are going to find information about such a person who has made wealth all on his own, with sheer hard work and perseverance.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw is an Indian Entrepreneur and Philanthropist who founded a biotechnology company, Biocon Limited in Bangalore, India. She is the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon. She received the Othmer Gold Medal for her exceptional contributions to the progress of science and chemistry. Financial Times named her in the business list of top 50 women. Forbes listed her as the 65th most powerful woman in the world. She was also named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020. She was ranked #2 in the Women Philanthropist list of 2019 by the Hurun Report India Philanthropy List 2019. As of the year 2020, she has an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion.

Kiran Mazumdar is the executive chairperson and the founder of one of the most prominent biopharmaceutical companies around the globe, Biocon Limited. Kiran is a person who is an inspiration to thousands of women out there who are aspiring to become entrepreneurs. Read Kiran Mazumdar Shaw's Success Story and know more about the journey of this amazing and inspiring woman.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Biography

Name Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
Year of Birth 23 March 1953
Nationality Indian
Education Graduate degree in brewing from the University of Ballarat, Melbourne
Profession Entrepreneur, Brewmaster
Title Executive Chairperson โ€“ Biocon Limited and Biocon Biologics Limited
Net Worth 370 crores USD
Spouse John Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Personal Life
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Education
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Professional Life & Career
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Founder of Biocon
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Expansion of Biocon
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Board Memberships
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Challenges Faced in Entrepreneurship
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Success story
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Philanthropy
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Awards & Recognitions

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Success Story

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Personal Life

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and John Shaw
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and John Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was born to Gujarati parents in Banglore on 23rd March 1953, in a middle-class family. Her father, Rasendra Mazumdar was the head brewmaster at United Breweries.

Since childhood, she aspired to become a doctor but couldnโ€™t get a scholarship. In 1974, she was the only girl pursuing brewery course and topped in her class. At the age of 44, Kiran got married to John Shaw in the year 1989. John was working as the chairman at Madura Coats but left the job to join Biocon with Kiran. John Shaw is serving as the Vice Chairman of Biocon since 2001.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Education

Kiran initially wanted to follow in her fatherโ€™s footsteps. She studied at Bangaloreโ€™s Bishop Cotton Girlโ€™s high school.

She then took a pre-university course from an affiliate of Bangalore University, Mount Carmel College. She further graduated with a bachelor's degree in zoology from Bangalore University in 1973.

Kiran wanted to pursue medical college but was unable to get any scholarship in any medical college. Her father then suggested to pursue fermentation science and get trained as a brewmaster, which is a very non-traditional field for women. She went to Ballarat College, Melbourne University in Australia to study malting and brewing. She earned her degree of master brewer in 1975. Kiran Shaw was the only woman who opted for the brewing course and with her intelligence, she topped in her class.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Professional Life & Career

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw with Leslie Auchincloss
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw with Leslie Auchincloss

Kiran started her professional career from Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne, where she worked as a trainee brewer. Kiran Mazumdar completed her training in Carlton and United Breweries. She also worked at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia, as a trainee maltster.

After coming back to India, she joined Jupiter Breweries in Calcutta as a technical consultant, and after gaining some experience there she worked as a Technical Manager at Standard Maltings Corporation situated in Baroda. She opted to further her career in Bangalore or Delhi but was told that "it's a man's profession" and that woman would not be employed as a master brewer in India.

She started looking for work overseas and was given a position in Scotland. Leslie Auchincloss, the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland met Mazumdar before she could relocate. His firm produced enzymes used in the brewing, food packaging, and textile sectors.

He was searching for an Indian entrepreneur to assist in the formation of a subsidiary in India. Kiran worked with the firm, and this was a life-changing opportunity for her. Leslie prepared her to work as a manager at his firm. Kiran went to India and began working for Biocon in a leased garage in Bangalore with an initial investment of 10,000 INR after she had a better understanding of the company's operations and sales.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Founder of Biocon

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Founded Biocon Logo
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Founded Biocon Logo

Kiran started with Biocon in 1978, she faced many challenges because of her youth, gender, and her untested business model. No bank wanted to lend her money, thus funding was a big issue.

After getting her first funding she started with her first factory which was in a nearby 3000 sq. ft shed. The extraction of papain (a papaya enzyme used to tenderize the meat) and isinglass were the company's first efforts (obtained from tropical catfish and used to clarify beer).

Biocon India was the first Indian firm to make enzymes and ship them to the United States and Europe within a year of its founding. Kiran invested her first year's profits in a 20-acre property, with plans to grow in the future. Kiran transformed Biocon India from an enzyme manufacturing firm to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company because of her unique thinking and ideas.

In 1984 Kiran discovered some new dimensions. At Biocon, a research and development team was created to focus on the development of innovative solid substrate fermentation methods. Biocon Pharmaceuticals was the first Indian biotech business to obtain funding from the United States for unique technology.

Kiran started looking for alternative opportunities which were cost-effective as well low-cost. She had also proposed that drug companies be cost-sensitive in marketing to developing countries so that people can afford the drugs they need.

Kiran and her husband John have always seen the need to provide people with the best they can, thus increasing and supplying affordable vaccines and medicines in India and helping society to overcome their medical requirements.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Expansion of Biocon

Biocon Subsidiaries
Biocon Subsidiaries

She managed to establish two subsidiaries of Biocon including, Syngene in 1994 and Clinigene in 2000. Syngene provided a contractual basis early research and development support service while Clinigene focused on clinical research trials and the development of both generic and new medicines. Clinigene was later merged in Syngene and it has a current market cap of Rs.14,270.

She incorporated Biocon Biopharmaceuticals Private Limited (BBLP) in 1990 to manufacture and market a select range of biotherapeutics in a joint venture with the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology.


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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Board Memberships

She is a member of the board of governors of the Indian School of Business and a term member of on the board of MIT, USA till 2023. She has been a former member of the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad. She was the first woman to head the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB).

She is an independent director on the board of Infosys. She is a member of the General Body of Maharashtra State Innovation Society. She is also a member of the advisory board of the MIT Jameel Clinic.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Challenges Faced in Entrepreneurship

She started with a seed capital of Rs.10,000. Inspite of being a joint venture, Indian laws restricted foreign ownership to only 30% of the company. Thus, 70% of the company belonged to Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

She faced reliability challenges because of her youth, gender, and untested business model. She was unable to secure funding for her company initially. She tried hard and finally got her first financial backing. She also struggled while recruiting people to work for her startup. She had to face technological changes with an eye to building a biotech business in India, which was then having a poor infrastructure.


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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Success story

Kiran met Leslie Auchincloss, who is the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland. The aforesaid company produces enzymes to be used in brewing, food packaging, and textile industries. Auchincloss was desperately looking for an entrepreneur in India, who would help her in establishing an Indian subsidiary of Biocon.

Kiran agreed to undertake the offer on a condition that if she did not wish to continue post six months, she would be given the position of brewmaster. She started working as a trainee manager at Biocon Limited, Cork, Ireland to learn more of the business. Post the training period, she returned India to establish the business.

In 1989, Biocon Biochemicals of Ireland was acquired from Leslie Auchincloss by Hindustan Unilever. The partnership with Unilever helped Biocon to establish best practices and quality systems across the world. Unilever then sold its chemical division including Biocon to Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Her husband, John Shaw invested $2 million to purchase the shares of Biocon from ICI.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Philanthropy

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw The Giving Pledge
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw The Giving Pledge

With the great success of her company, Biocon has allowed Kiran to donate and be the support of the people who need help but do not have the resources. Kiran is a firm believer in sharing and cares about people hence giving at least half of her wealth to philanthropic work. This was when she joined The Giving Pledge movement in the year 2015. ย 

With the support of her husband John, she started up with Mazumdar Shaw Foundation in India to help the needful. The key sectors of the foundation are Education, Healthcare, Art & Culture, and a Healthy Environment. The Foundation is involved in numerous health and education outreach programs to benefit the economically weaker sections of Indian society.

Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center
Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center

Mazumdar Shaw foundation has also established a 1400 bed cancer care center in Bangalore, in collaboration with Devi Shetty. Her goal is to create a world-class cancer center with affordable treatment.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw - Awards & Recognitions

Kiran Mazumdar honoured by the Government of India
Kiran Mazumdar honoured by the Government of India

Kiran Mazumdar has been awarded several times for her leadership and ย success in entrepreneurship.

  • She has been Conferred with the Bombay Management Association (BMA) Business Leader of The Decade Award in 2022.
  • She has been awarded with the "Spirit of TiE - Trailblazers Award" by TiE Bangalore on World Entrepreneurs Day in 2021.
  • Biocon has been recognized among the Top 20 in the The Medicine Maker Power List 2019 under the Business Captains category in 2019.
  • Kiran has received Padma Shri in the year 1989 and Padma Bhushan in the year 2005.
  • Recipient of EY World Entrepreneur of the Year (2020) and EY Entrepreneur of the Year India Award (2019).
  • Recipient of Order of Australia (2020).
  • Recipient of ICMRโ€™s Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare (2019).
  • Recipient of AWSM Award for Excellence (2017).
  • Knight of the National Order of the French Legion of Honour (2016).
  • Recipient of Othmer Gold Medal (2014).
  • Recipient of Global Economy Prize for Business (2014).
  • Ranked among the worldโ€™s 16 Most Powerful Women in Leadership in 2021 by CEO Magazine.

Kiran is also fond of writing books and she loves reading novels. She has written and has got published two books: โ€˜Ale and Artyโ€™ and โ€˜Indiaโ€™s Innovation Challenge for Inclusive Development.

Conclusion

The second richest self-made woman in India is the star and pride of the nation. Nobody knew about Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw but now she is one of the most influential women in the country. She has shown the world that a woman can do everything and is a living inspiration for young woman entrepreneurs.

FAQs

Who is the husband of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw?

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is married to John Shaw.

How old is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw?

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was born on 23 March 1953 and is 69 years old (2022).

What is the net worth of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw?

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has a net worth of ย $370 crores as of 2022.

What is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw's education?

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has done bachelor's degree in zoology from Bangalore University in 1973 and earned a degree as master brewer in 1975 from Melbourne University in Australia.

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