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From entrepreneur to MIT Board Member: The inspiring story of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder and managing director of Biocon India, the largest bio- pharmaceutical company of India, has not only revolutionized the biotech industry but has also contributed significantly to clinical research and development and philanthropic activities. Her journey from an entrepreneur a distinguished member of the MIT Board is truly captivating. Read on to know how it all started for Mazumdar.

 

Education

Shaw started her career following the footsteps of her father who was a brewmaster at United Breweries. After her graduation, on her father’s advice, Shaw took up the study of fermentation. In 1973, Shaw went to the University of Ballarat, now Federation University, in Melbourne, Australia to study brewing and malting.

Back then, brewing was not seen as a conventional career choice for women. Shaw was the only woman in her batch. In 1975, she not only obtained her Masters degree in brewing but also topped her class.

 

Early career

Between 1975 and 1977, Shaw worked at various breweries in Melbourne as well as India in positions like trainee brewer, trainee maltster and technical consultant. However, she could not find any company in India that would hire a woman as the master brewer. Eventually, she started looking for options outside India. Meanwhile, she met Leslie Auchincloss, owner of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland.

Auchincloss impressed by Shaw’s abilities and vision, decided to open a joint venture with her. In 1978, Auchincloss and Shaw started their company, Biocon India where Shaw held 70% of the ownership.

 

Taking forward Biocon

The roadmap as a budding Indian woman entrepreneur, turned out to be extremely difficult for Shaw. Banks were not ready to fund her. Her credibility was questioned because of her young age, gender and unconventional career field. Hiring employees was also a stumbling block as people did not want to work at a start-up launched by a woman.

Besides, the lack of quality infrastructure like uninterrupted power supply, premium quality water supply, hygienic and well-equipped labs, skilled workers etc., magnified the crisis even more. But despite all these obstacles, within one year of its establishment, Biocon India became the first ever Indian company to export its self-manufactured enzymes to the US and Europe.

It is under the direction of Shaw, that an enzyme manufacturing company, which started off with an initial capital of just Rs.10,000, went ahead to become the largest biopharmaceutical company of the country. Biocon India is associated with the manufacturing of several path-breaking products for cancer, diabetes and anti-immune diseases. Shaw made sure that R&D and clinical trials never took a back seat. Biocon is the first ever Indian company to get US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to develop a cholesterol reducing molecule.

 

Awards and positions

Owing to her massive contribution in the field of biopharmaceutical manufacturing, R&D, clinical advancement and philanthropic activities, Shaw has been accredited and decorated with several awards and recognition. In 2000, the World Economic Forum named her as a “Technology Pioneer”. In 2002, Ernst & Young honoured her as the best entrepreneur in the health & life care sciences.

In 2004, The Economic Times recognized her as Business Woman of the Year. In 2005, Shaw was awarded the Padma Bhushan for her contribution to biotechnology and also was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Chamber of Commerce. She has also received several prestigious international awards like the Nikkei Asia Prize in 2009 and Othmer Gold Medal in 2014.

Apart from such distinguished recognition, Shaw has held several advisory and cardinal positions. She was the Chairperson of National Task Force on Biotechnology established by the Confederation of Indian Industry and has also remained a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry. At present, she is on the board of governors of the Indian Business School. She is also the first ever woman Chairperson of the board of governors at IIM- Bangalore.

Furthermore, she is also a lead independent director at Infosys. Recently, in June 2018, Shaw was elected as a full-term MIT Corporation member. MIT Corporation is the Board of Trustees of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Indeed, the journey has been long for Shaw, but her hard work, dedication and passion are an inspiration for all.