Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Founder & Chairwoman Biocon Ltd.

Born three scores ago in Bangalore, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had to undergo challenges that only the really focused and determined could handle. And after all these time? She has come to be Forbes 85th most powerful woman in the world.

Biocon Founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Biocon Founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

How and what exactly makes her worthy of such accolade?

Kiran completed her Bachelors in Zoology at Bangalore University in 1973 and her postgraduate studies at Melbourne University in 1975. She then did some time as trainee, consultant, and technical manager until she started Biocon in 1978 as a company manufacturing industrial enzymes.

Parenthetically, Biocon is a biotechnology company from Ireland. And it was actually that chance meeting with Les Auchincloss, who offered her to be a business partner in India, was how her Biocon began.

Was it that simple? No. Kiran refused at first since she’s into science and not entrepreneurship, but with Les’ buy-back clause in case the business failed, she finally accepted. Things were starting to heat up as she faced credibility issues back in India and that’s because of her youth, gender, and back then biotechnology was still an unknown business model – so no financial institution wanted to back her and that she even found it hard to recruit people.

With Rs. 10,000 as initial capital and two employees, Kiran then commenced operations at the garage of her rented house. Hmm… sounds familiar eh, garage? Just like Steve Jobs, at their garage and just two years ahead of Kiran, 1976.

Consequently, she even faced more challenges after setting up, technological and infrastructural ones at that – like the need for uninterrupted power, quality water, sterile laboratories, and the latest research equipments among others. Must be tough to be in India especially back in the days, huh? Well, as they say, “the road to success is never easy, if it were then all of us would be accomplished.”

In the end, all her hard work and resilience paid off.

With her leadership, Biocon has transformed from just manufacturing enzymes to a fully integrated bio-pharmaceutical company – building cutting-edge capabilities, global credibility, and manufacturing and marketing on a global scale. To date, it has Asia’s largest insulin and statin facilities as well as the largest perfusion-based antibody production facilities.

Now, is that Power? It’s her attitude even from the start and the scope of what she does. Not to mention last year as according to Forbes, she authored two game-changing deals – developing generic insulin with Mylan and an oral insulin with Bristol-Myers. How many are suffering from diabetes? How many could afford its medication? That’s the focus of Kiran – making affordable medicine for the world. Besides philanthropy which she does with her Biocon Foundation, that’s social responsibility.

For leaders out there, it would be good to reemphasize the value of partnering and of maximizing skills.

What’s your take?