February 22, 2020
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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon

Mazumdar Shaw struggled to raise capital not just because she was a woman, but because of her ambitions in a globally competitive and advanced field.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon
Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah/Outlook Archives
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon
  • Mazumdar Shaw’s Biocon is now a Rs 9,148 crore-plus bio-pharma company


Australia-educated Kiran Mazumdar Shaw returned to India in 1975 with humbler dreams than Biocon, the company she founded. She wanted to be a master brewer, an effort that came a cropper, so she started as an enzyme manufacturer. Since then, Biocon has used its core strength—fermentation technology—to evolve a portfolio of cutting-edge insulins and a range of other drugs.

Mazumdar Shaw is now one of India’s wealthiest women and Biocon the biggest biotech company. This was not exactly an easy rise for either. It was, after all, started with an initial capital of only Rs 10,000 ($150 today) in 1978, when Mazumdar Shaw was 25. She is now a Rs 12,000 crore-plus billionaire and Time named her as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

In the initial years, Mazumdar Shaw struggled to raise capital. This was not just for being a woman at the helm of a tech-centric company, but also because she had sought to graduate Biocon from the simpler world of enzymes into the advanced and internationa­lly-competitive field of bio-pharma.

The tide turned in the ’90s. That is when Mazumdar Shaw turned Biocon into an increasingly versatile concern, getting on to the cutting-edge of statins research. The company is now focused on research and development, of biosimilars in particular. (Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol, while biosimilars are drugs that are near-identical to existing drugs. They are not to be confused with generics.)

Mazumdar Shaw is a self-made entrepreneur. It is when Biocon was valued at a billion dollars on the stock exchanges that she earned her reputation of being a serious player. Until then, she was mostly regarded as ano­­ther player with potential who would cash in on the booming pharmaceutical sector, not blaze a trail through it.

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