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Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Indian entrepreneur (Biocon), billionaire

Indian entrepreneur (Biocon), billionaire
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Indian entrepreneur (Biocon), billionaire
Is Brewer Businessperson Business executive Entrepreneur Zoologist
From India
Type Biology Business
Gender female
Birth 23 March 1953, Bengaluru, India
Age: 67 years
Star sign AriesAries
Residence Bengaluru, India
Bishop Cotton Girls' School
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore Bachelor of Science
Bangalore University Master of Science
Federation University Australia
Othmer Gold Medal 2014
Time 100  
Nikkei Asia Prize 2009
doctor honoris causa 2004
doctor honoris causa 2007
doctor honoris causa 2008
doctor honoris causa 2013
Global Economy Prize 2014
Padma Bhushan in science & engineering  
Padma Shri in trade and industry  
The details


Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (born 23 March 1953) is an Indian billionaire entrepreneur. She is the chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, a biotechnology company based in Bangalore, India and the former chairperson of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. In 2014, she was awarded the Othmer Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to the progress of science and chemistry. She is on the Financial Times’ top 50 women in business list. In 2019, she is listed as the 65th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. She had earlier featured on the lists of the most powerful women in the world - in 2016 and 2017 at 77th and 71st positions respectively.

Early life and education

Kiran Mazumdar was born on 23 March 1953 in Pune, Maharashtra state, to Bengali parents. She was educated at Bangalore's Bishop Cotton Girl's High School, graduating in 1968. She then attended Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, a women's college offering pre-university courses as an affiliate of Bangalore University. She studied biology and zoology, graduating from Bangalore University with a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1973. Mazumdar hoped to go to medical school, but could not obtain a scholarship.

Her father, Rasendra Mazumdar, was the head brewmaster at United Breweries. He suggested that she study fermentation science, and train to be a brewmaster, a very non-traditional field for women. Mazumdar went to Ballarat College, Melbourne University in Australia to study malting and brewing. In 1974, she was the only woman enrolled in the brewing course and topped in her class. She earned the degree of master brewer in 1975.

She worked as a trainee brewer in Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne and as a trainee maltster at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia. She also worked for some time as a technical consultant at Jupiter Breweries Limited, Calcutta and as a technical manager at Standard Maltings Corporation, Baroda between 1975 and 1977. However, when she investigated the possibility of advancing her career in Bangalore or Delhi, she was told that she could not be hired as a master brewer in India because "It's a man's work." She began to look abroad for opportunities and was offered a position in Scotland.


Before Mazumdar could move, she met Leslie Auchincloss, the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland. Auchincloss's company produced enzymes for use in the brewing, food-packaging and textile industries. Auchincloss was looking for an Indian entrepreneur to help establish an Indian subsidiary. Mazumdar agreed to undertake the job on the condition that if she did not wish to continue later six months she would be given a brewmaster's position comparable to the one she was giving up.

Beginning with enzymes

After a brief period as a trainee manager at Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland, to learn more about the business, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw returned to India. She started Biocon India in 1978 in the garage of her rented house in Bengaluru with a seed capital of Rs. 10,000. Although it was a joint venture, Indian laws restricted foreign ownership to only 30% of the company. The remaining 70% belonged to Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.

Initially, she faced credibility challenges because of her youth, gender and her untested business model. Funding was a problem: no bank wanted to lend her money, and some required her father be a guarantor. A chance meeting with a banker at a social event finally enabled her to get her first financial backup. She also found it difficult to recruit people to work for her start-up. Her first employee was a retired garage mechanic. Her first factory was in a nearby 3,000-square-foot shed. The most complicated piece of equipment in her lab at that time was a spectrophotometer. Moreover, she faced the technological challenges associated with trying to build a biotech business in a country with poor infrastructure. Uninterrupted power, superior quality water, sterile labs, imported research equipment, and workers with advanced scientific skills were not easily available in India at the time.

The company's initial projects were the extraction of papain (an enzyme from papaya used to tenderize meat) and isinglass (obtained from tropical catfish and used to clarify beer). Within an year of its inception, Biocon India was able to manufacture enzymes and export them to the U.S. and Europe, the first Indian company to do so. At the end of her first year, Mazumdar used her earnings to buy a 20-acre property, planning to expand in future.

Expanding into biopharmaceuticals

Mazumdar spearheaded Biocon's evolution from an industrial enzymes manufacturing company to a fully integrated bio-pharmaceutical company with a well-balanced business portfolio of products and a research focus on diabetes, oncology and auto-immune diseases. She also established two subsidiaries: Syngene (1994) which provides early research and development support services on a contract basis and Clinigene (2000) which focuses on clinical research trials and the development of both generic and new medicines. Clinigene was later merged with Syngene. Syngene was listed on BSE/NSE in 2015 and has a current market cap of US$1.15 billion.

Mazumdar is responsible for establishing Biocon's direction. As early as 1984, she began to develop a research and development team at Biocon, focusing on the discovery of novel enzymes and on development of novel techniques for solid substrate fermentation technology. The company's first major expansion came in 1987, when Narayanan Vaghul of ICICI Ventures (Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India) supported creation of a venture capital fund of US$250,000. The money enabled Biocon to expand its research and development efforts. They built a new plant featuring proprietary solid substrate fermentation technology based on a semi-automated tray culture process, inspired by Japanese techniques. In 1989, Biocon became the first Indian biotech company to receive U.S. funding for proprietary technologies.

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

Establishing independence

Biocon Biochemicals of Ireland was acquired from Leslie Auchincloss by Unilever in 1989. The partnership with Unilever helped Biocon to establish global best practices and quality systems. In 1997, Unilever sold its specialty chemicals division, including Biocon, to Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). In 1998, Kiran Mazumdar's fiancée, Scotsman John Shaw, personally raised $2 million to purchase the outstanding Biocon shares from ICI. The couple married in 1998, whereupon she became known as Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. John Shaw left his position as chairman at Madura Coats to join Biocon. He became Biocon’s vice chairman in 2001.

In 2004, after seeking the advice of Narayana Murthy, Mazumdar-Shaw decided to list Biocon on the stock market. Her intent was to raise capital to further develop Biocon's research programs. Biocon was the first biotechnology company in India to issue an IPO. Biocon's IPO was oversubscribed 33 times and its first day at the bourses closed with a market value of $1.11 billion, making Biocon only the second Indian company to cross the $1-billion mark on the first day of listing.

Affordable innovation

Mazumdar-Shaw's belief in "affordable innovation" has been a driving philosophy behind Biocon's expansion. Inspired by the need for affordable drugs in less-wealthy countries, she has looked for opportunities to develop cost-effective techniques and low-cost alternatives. She has also proposed that drug companies be cost-sensitive in marketing to developing countries, so that people can afford the drugs they need, particularly chronic therapies.

Mazumdar-Shaw noticed the market potential for statins (cholesterol fighting drugs) early on. When the patent of the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin expired in 2001, Biocon got involved in its development. Then they expanded to other forms of statins. Part of her strategy was to enter into long-term supply contracts, establishing a dependable market base over time. Statins soon accounted for over 50 per cent of the company's revenue. The company’s revenue went up from Rs. 70 crore in 1998, to Rs. 500 crore in 2004 when it went public.

Biocon continues to expand into new areas. Yeast expression platforms offer a desirable alternative to mammalian cell cultures for the genetic manipulation of cells for use in a variety of drug treatments. Unicellular methylotrophic yeasts such as Pichia pastoris are used in the production of vaccines, antibody fragments, hormones, cytokines, matrix proteins, and biosimilars.

Biocon's major areas of research now include cancer, diabetes, and other auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Because of the high percentage of people in India who chew betel or tobacco, India accounts for eighty-six per cent of oral cancer in the world, known locally as "cancer cheek". Diabetes is prevalent, and people who do not wear shoes are at risk to have a minor scrape or injury develop into gangrene, or "diabetes foot". Biocon is also working on drugs to treat psoriasis, a skin pigment disease which can result in social ostracization.

Bio-pharmaceuticals developed include Pichia-derived recombinant human insulin and insulin analogs for diabetes, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody for head and neck cancer, and a biologic for psoriasis. Biocon is Asia's largest insulin producer, and has the largest perfusion-based antibody production facilities.

As of 2014, Biocon directed about 10% of its revenue into research and development, a much higher proportion than most Indian pharmacological companies. Biocon has filed at least 950 patent applications based on its research activity. Mazumdar-Shaw has remained actively engaged in acquisitions, partnerships and in-licensing in the pharmaceuticals and bio-pharmaceutical areas, entering into more than 2,200 high-value R&D licensing and other deals between 2005 and 2010.

Philanthropic activities

In 2004, Mazumdar-Shaw started a corporate social responsibility wing at Biocon, the Biocon Foundation. The Foundation focuses on health, education and infrastructure, especially in rural areas of Karnataka which lack healthcare facilities.

Mazumdar-Shaw dislikes the term "philanthropy", believing that it often provides temporary fixes rather than addressing the root cause or the underlying situation. She prefers the term "compassionate capitalist", believing that properly applied business models can provide an ongoing foundation for sustainable social progress. "Innovation and commerce are as powerful tools for creating social progress as they are for driving technological advancement... when they are put to use for social progress, the implementation is a lot cheaper, a lot more people benefit, and the effect is more lasting." In 2015, she joined The Giving Pledge, promising that at least half of her wealth will be dedicated to philanthropy.


India does not have organized health care programs such as socialised medicine or government-backed health insurance. Rural areas may have only one doctor for every two thousand people: it is estimated that 70 million people do not have the money to pay for a doctor's visit or for medicine. The Biocon Foundation is involved in numerous health and education outreach programs to benefit the economically weaker sections of Indian society.

Arogya Raksha Yojana

With Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, Mazumdar-Shaw has supported the development of Arogya Raksha Yojana (Disease Protection Program/Health Help). Through this program Biocon Foundation establishes clinics to offer clinical care, generic medicines and basic tests for those who cannot afford them. As of 2010, seven clinics each served a population of 50,000 patients living within a radius of 10 km, treating in total more than 300,000 people per year. Clinics organize regular general health checks in remote villages by bringing in physicians and doctors from network hospitals. To improve early detection of cancer, they have trained young women as community health workers, using smart phones to send photographs of suspicious lesions to oncologists at the cancer center. Public health campaigns such as "Queen of Heart" educate people about specific health issues and promote early detection of problems such as cardiovascular diseases.

The clinics operate based on a model of micro-financed health insurance. Biocon provides low-cost drugs, making a negligible profit on a unit basis, but an overall profit on volume due to the participation of large numbers of people. Clinics also use a "subsidised convenience" pricing plan, under which more wealthy patrons pay full price in return for the convenience of scheduling their visits and procedures at desirable times, while poorer patients can obtain cheap or even free services by choosing less desirable times. Doctors and researchers look for opportunities to use cutting-edge technology in ways that will drive down costs and ensure quality of service.

Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation

The death of her best friend, Nilima Rovshen, and the illnesses of her husband and her mother with cancer, have motivated Mazumdar-Shaw to support cancer research and treatment. In 2009, she established a 1,400-bed cancer care center, the Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation, at the Narayana Health City campus in Bangalore, collaborating with Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya. In 2011, she added a center for advanced therapeutics with a bone marrow transplant unit and a research center. Her goal is to create a world-class cancer center.

Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation is a non-profit organization and has two arms to support its cause, which are Mazumdar Shaw Center for Translational Research and Mazumdar Shaw Cancer outreach program.


In collaboration with McMillan India Limited and teacher Prathima Rao, Mazumdar-Shaw has supported development and use of a basic mathematics textbook, introduced in Kannada schools in 2006.

She funded a multi-year research program by creating the Biocon Cell for Innovation Management with Prasad kaipa at the Indian School of Business in 2009.


Mazumdar-Shaw speaks about the importance of improving India's infrastructure, emphasizing the need to address issues such as efficient governance, job creation, and food, water, and health insecurity.

In Bangalore itself, Biocon, Infosys and other companies have had a significant impact on the city. These companies attract many scientists who would otherwise go overseas. Once a "pensioner's paradise", Bangalore is now called "the best urban working environment in India". Biocon Park, built in 2005 not far from Mazumdar-Shaw's original office, is a ninety-acre campus with five thousand employees. Outside the developed areas, however, there is still severe poverty.

Mazumdar-Shaw is a proponent of good government and infrastructure. She supported the Bangalore Agenda Task Force, an initiative of S. M. Krishna and Nandan Nilekani to improve the city's infrastructure and standard of living. Mazumdar-Shaw is part of the Bangalore City Connect Foundation, a non-profit trust for discussion of civic issues, involving both urban stakeholders and the government. Mazumdar-Shaw is actively engaged in urban reform, partnering with Jana Urban Space Foundation and local government to improve roads. She is also involved in the Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC), which reviews and recommends candidates running in elections.

After the 2009 flood, Biocon, Infosys and Wipro all committed to rebuilding homes for flood victims in north Karnataka. Biocon committed to building 3,000 houses at a cost of Rs 30 crore.

Board memberships

Mazumdar-Shaw is a member of the board of governors of the Indian School of Business, a term member on the board of MIT, USA till 2023, and a past member of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.

Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson, Board of Governors, IIMB, with Shah Rukh Khan during IIMBUE 2015 on Dec 11

As of February 2014, Mazumdar-Shaw became 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 also a member of the General Body of Maharashtra State Innovation Society.

Awards and honours

As of 2010, Mazumdar-Shaw was named among TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. She is on the 2011 Financial Times’ top 50 women in business list. As of 2014, she was listed as the 92nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In 2015, she had risen to 85th in the Forbes ranking. She was voted global Indian of the year by Pharma Leaders Magazine in 2012.

International awards

Mazumdar-Shaw is the recipient of several international awards including the Othmer Gold Medal (2014) for outstanding contributions to the progress of science and chemistry, the Nikkei Asia Prize (2009) for regional growth, the ‘Veuve Clicquot Initiative For Economic Development For Asia' Award (2007), Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Life Sciences & Healthcare (2002), and 'Technology Pioneer' recognition by World Economic Forum (2002). In May 2015 Federation University Australia (formerly the University of Ballarat) named a road in its Mt Helen campus as Mazumdar Drive. Kiran and Shaw attended the opening ceremony. She was elected as a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2019 for development of affordable biopharmaceuticals and the biotechnology industry in India. She is the first Indian woman to get this honor. In January 2020, Kiran became the fourth Indian citizen to be honoured with Australia's highest civilian honour.

Indian awards

Her work in the biotechnology sector has earned her numerous national awards, including the Padma Shri (1989) and the Padma Bhushan (2005) from the government of India. She was given the Economic Times Award for 'Businesswoman of the Year' in 2004. At the Pharmaleaders Pharmaceutical Leadership Summit she was named "Global Indian Woman of the Year" (2012); she also received the Express Pharmaceutical Leadership Summit Award for "Dynamic Entrepreneur" in 2009. The Indian Merchants' Chamber Diamond Jubilee Endowment Trust's Eminent Businessperson of the Year Award was presented to Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw in 2006 by the Governor of Maharashtra, S. M. Krishna. She has also received the Indian Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), the 'Corporate Leadership Award' by the American India Foundation (2005). and the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award (2002).

Honorary degrees

Mazumdar-Shaw received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Ballarat University in 2004, in recognition of her contributions to biotechnology. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Abertay, Dundee, UK (2007), the University of Glasgow, UK (2008), Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK (2008) and University College Cork, Ireland (2012). She received an honorary doctorate from Davangere University, India, at its first convocation, July 2013, in recognition of her contribution in the field of biotechnology.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 30 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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