New Delhi: Kiran Majumdar Shaw, the founder of revolutionary biotechnology company Biocon, is an inspirational Indian woman entrepreneur whose dedication and determination motivated several next generation entrepreneurs in India.
In an informative podcast with Zerodha’s Nikhil Kamath called “WTF,” Kiran Majumdar revealed her interesting journey of creating Biocon from scratch. Starting with just Rs 10,000 in her pockets, she met pivotal people in her life and took risks whenever necessary.
Let’s read more about India’s first self-made entrepreneur and her story of how she challenged the patriarchy to build the revolutionary company.
Kiran Majumdar’s Career And Pivot Moment
Kiran wanted to take admission into the medical school but she failed to secure a seat there. Then, life swerved and took her to the bachelor degree at Bangalore University in Zoology. However, she shone there too by becoming the topper of the University and received the gold medal.
Her father was original maker of King Fisher beer. He suggested to go for masters in brewing in Australia. She decided to give it a shot and went for Australia to do her masters in brewing in 1974. She came back from Australia in 1976 around her 21st birthday.
Facing Patriarchy In India, Having Serendipity
She didn’t get the job in brewery industry. “India’s wasn’t ready for woman being a brewer,” Kiran said in the podcast.
In 1978, she got the offer from a Scotland firm. She accepted the offer and planned to go Scotland.
She had serendipity when she met a biotech entrepreneur from Ireland. She was catching a Rajdhani Express from Baroda to Delhi. That entrepreneur influenced her to start an Enzyme making firm in India with a help of product purchasing guarantee.
Starting Of BioCon and The Long Road Ahead
She was 25 when she started Biocon – “a strange company” – with Rs 10,000 in the bank account. It was 1978. She had to face male dominance in the market as banks hesitated to give her a loan and employees didn’t want to work for a woman. Her first two employees were retired tractor mechanic who badly wanted a job. She started in a shed, her garage. The irish man guaranteed a buyback for product and advanced to buying those enzymes.
Finally, a banker of Canara bank named Dinesh Nayar helped her out after impressing with her idea and company. He lent her money during her struggling days to build enzymes.
Soon, she started interacting with IIT students and illustrated her revolutionary company. The efforts didn’t go in vain as some students from IITs decided to join her after being influenced by what she had been doing so far. The four of them were: Shree Kumar Sunil Narayan, Ajay Bhardhawaj, Murali Krishnan & Arun Chandravarkar.
“I always of the view if you want a country like India to grow and develop as a global economy, it could only happen through entrepreneurship. We as old people ensure to breed entrepreneurs,” Kiran added in the podcast.
Unilever Came Into Play And Met Life And Business Partner
Irish shareholders in BioCon sold their part of shares to Unilever that accounted around 30% of total shares. It turned her and Biocon into a more professional organisation from an amateurish entrepreneur. She had to comply more with regulations, global standards, financial reporting and more.
In early 1990s, she met John Shaw, who would eventually become her husband and business partner. The duo got married in 1998. Later on, John helped Kiran to take back 30% shares of BioCon from Unilever at $2 million. John had to sell her townhouse in UK, in fact “all his savings” to accrue the some money.
Finally, ICICI Venture got ready to give $2 million in exchange of 10% shares, which later bought by AIG at $400 million.
Diversification of Product lines
Keeping the pace of market and demand, Kiran kept her company innovative and enterprising by developing new products. They started focusing on biopharmaceuticals to diversify themselves from enzymes only production. The strategy worked and it was a huge success.
Later on, she focused on producing recombinant human insulin to depart the dependence on animal insulin in the market, which got a large share. BioCon became the first firm to introduce recombinant human insulin in 2004.
The same year, it launched its first initial public offering or IPO in the market, skyrocketing the company’s valuation in billion dollars and making its founder Kiran Majumdar Shaw, India’s first self-made woman entrepreneur.
The journey wasn’t easy as she had to face cash crunch to male dominance society. Her unwavering spirit to build a very new form of industry in India inspired not only next-generation entrepreneurs but women too.
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