Biocon Founder: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Success Story

11 Jul, 2022

5 min read


Learn about Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who is one of the country’s self-made billionaire entrepreneurs and who is the founder of Biocon.

Introducing Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

If you’ve ever been to a chemist in India, the chances of your spotting a drug lining the shelves that are owed in part to Biocon are high. Biocon Limited serves as the country’s largest biopharmaceutical company. The woman behind this company is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. She is recognised as one of the wealthiest women in India today and serves as the company’s chairperson. This company is responsible for having made several breakthroughs in clinical research and currently has over 1,280 patents granted in its name. 

Continue reading to learn more about who Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is and understand her success story. 

Early Years

The Biocon founder was born in Maharashtra to a Gujarati family. Mrs Shaw received her education from Bishop Cotton Girls High School in Bangalore prior to studying at Mount Carmel College. The year 1973 saw her graduate from Bangalore University with a degree in zoology. Although she hoped to attend medical school, it wasn’t in her cards owing to a scholarship.

From a young age, this female billionaire was fond of research. Given that her father served as the head brewmaster at United Breweries and recognised how keen she was on learning more, he suggested she study fermentation science such that she could become a brewmaster. With her father’s encouragement, she studied brewing and malting at Melbourne University in Australia. By 1975 she had earned her degree as a master brewer and scored at the top of her class. Notably, she was the only woman to graduate from her program.

Upon graduating, she held a string of jobs including that of a trainee brewer at Carlton and United Breweries as well as a trainer master at Barret Brothers and Burston in Australia. Upon enhancing her skills, she moved back to India wherein she worked as a trainee consultant at Jupiter Breweries in Calcutta. This role was followed by that of a technical manager at Standard Maltings Corporation, Baroda. 

Although Mrs Shaw sought to advance her career in Delhi or Bangalore, she had a tough time given that she was a female trying to make her own way in the late 20th century. Fortunately, though, several opportunities overseas began to present themselves to her. 

Road to Success  

While overseas, Shaw came across an entrepreneur from Ireland by the name of Leslie Auchincloss who wished to find an Indian entrepreneur via whom he could establish an Indian subsidiary of his company – Biocon Biochemicals Ltd. This company focused on creating enzymes that were used in food packaging, textiles and brewing.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw found herself suitably intrigued by the opportunity but was only receptive to it provided she’d be given a position that was in line with the one she’d be giving up. Since this wasn’t her original plan, she often calls herself an accidental entrepreneur. 

Mrs Shaw and Mr Auchincloss began making enzymes and once she returned to India, she started Biocon in the garage of a house she had rented. At the time, this company had INR 10,000 alone as capital. Since the country’s laws at the time limited the extent to which foreign ownership in a company was permitted (to 30 per cent), Kiran owned 70 percent of it. Over time, she began manufacturing medicines. As the company’s sales from enzymes were bringing in cash, it was possible to carry out research and production of pharmaceutical drugs. 

During this time, venture funding was not an option in the country owing to which Mrs Shaw had to create a business model that was geared towards revenues and profits. There were challenges she faced given that her business model had to be worked on and that she was a woman. Securing a loan was also an issue.

Ultimately though she was able to meet a banker who helped create a financial backup for Biocon. This company truly took off once Biocon India became the country’s first manufacturer of enzymes that successfully exported them to the United States and Europe. 

Once Mrs Shaw finished her first year with Biocon, she used her earnings to purchase a 20-acre property such that she could expand her business. Under her helm, Biocon evolved from being limited to the manufacture of industrial enzymes alone to becoming an entirely integrated biopharmaceutical company. Today, Biocon is responsible for conducting research within the regions of diabetes, auto-immune diseases and oncology.

Two subsidiaries Mrs Shaw went on to establish included Syngene in 1994 and Clinigene in 2004. While the former focused on early R&D (research and development) support via contrasts, the latter conducted clinical research trials and focused on the development of generic as well as new medicines. Ultimately, these two subsidiaries would go on to merge under Clinigene which saw itself listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange as well as the National Stock Exchange in 2015. The present market cap amounts to INR 14,170 crores. 

Kiran Mazumdar married her husband John Shaw in 1998, who went on to become the company’s first vice-chairman in 2001.  A year prior to marriage John personally raised USD 2 million in order to purchase Biocon’s outstanding shares held by Imperial Chemical Industries which had purchased the shares from Unilever in 1997.

Narayan Murthy is credited with having advised Kiran Mazumdar Shaw to list Biocon Share on the stock markets. She was fuelled by the desire to raise capital such that the company’s research programmes could be better developed. Biocon is recognised as the first Indian biotech company to issue an IPO that was oversubscribed 33 times. On its first day, Biocon closed with a market value of USD 1.1 billion and was recognised as the country’s second company to cross the USD 1 billion threshold on the first day of being listed on the stock markets.

Final Thoughts

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s story is one of success, hard work and passion. As she was able to see the bigger picture and able to recognise the importance of investing in research and development, Biocon was able to grow exponentially. Learn more about inspiring Indians on the Angel One website. 



Disclaimer: This blog is exclusively for educational purposes and does not provide any advice/tips on investment or recommend buying and selling any stock.

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