Kiran Majumdar Shaw, the renowned founder of the revolutionary biotechnology firm Biocon, serves as a great inspiration to Indian women entrepreneurs. Her dedication and unwavering determination have been a driving force for the next generation of entrepreneurs in the country.
During an enlightening podcast with Nikhil Kamath from Zerodha, titled “WTF,” Kiran Majumdar shared the intriguing tale of her journey in establishing Biocon from scratch. With a mere Rs 10,000 in her possession, she encountered significant individuals who played crucial roles in her life and fearlessly embraced risks along the way.
This is the remarkable story of India’s first self-made entrepreneur who fearlessly challenged the patriarchal norms to build a groundbreaking company.
Kiran Majumdar’s Career And Pivot Moment
Against all odds, Kiran’s dedication and hard work paid off as she emerged as the topper of the university, earning the prestigious gold medal for her outstanding academic performance in Zoology.
Adding to her remarkable journey, Kiran’s father, the original creator of King Fisher beer, played a significant role in shaping her destiny. He encouraged her to consider pursuing a master’s degree in brewing in Australia, recognizing her potential in the field. Taking her father’s advice to heart, Kiran decided to seize the opportunity and set out for Australia in 1974 to embark on her brewing education.
After two years of relentless dedication and academic pursuit, Kiran returned to India around her 21st birthday in 1976, armed with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in brewing.
Kiran’s extraordinary journey from a thwarted medical aspirant to a celebrated Zoology topper and brewing expert serves as a shining example of determination and resilience. Her accomplishments are not only a testament to her individual brilliance but also a testament to the power of pursuing one’s passions and embracing unexpected opportunities.
Facing Patriarchy In India, Having Serendipity
In a recent podcast, Kiran expressed her disappointment after being denied a job in the brewery industry, citing gender bias as the main reason. According to her, Indian society wasn’t yet prepared to accept women as brewers.
The incident took place in 1978 when Kiran received a job offer from a Scotland-based firm in the brewery sector. Despite her enthusiasm, she was compelled to decline the offer as she felt the prevailing mindset in India hindered her prospects in the field.
However, fate took an unexpected turn when Kiran, on a journey from Baroda to Delhi aboard the Rajdhani Express, crossed paths with an Irish biotech entrepreneur. This chance encounter proved to be serendipitous as the entrepreneur motivated her to consider starting an Enzyme manufacturing firm in India.
Empowered by the entrepreneur’s support and a guarantee of product purchasing, Kiran embraced the opportunity and went on to establish her own Enzyme manufacturing venture in India, carving a path of success in the biotech industry.
Starting Of BioCon and The Long Road Ahead
In 1978, at the age of 25, she embarked on a journey to establish Biocon, a pioneering company, with a mere Rs 10,000 in her bank account. Overcoming various obstacles in a male-dominated market, she faced reluctance from banks to grant her a loan and struggled to find employees willing to work for a woman. Undeterred, she hired two retired tractor mechanics who were desperate for employment, and her humble beginnings started in her own garage.
With determination and perseverance, she managed to secure an Irish man’s support, who guaranteed a buyback for her products, propelling her forward into selling enzymes. However, it was not until a fortuitous encounter with Dinesh Nayar, a Canara Bank banker, that she received the much-needed financial assistance during her trying times, enabling her to further develop her enzymes.
Her revolutionary ideas and dedication caught the attention of students from various IITs, who were greatly influenced by her work. Four such individuals – Shree Kumar Sunil Narayan, Ajay Bhardhawaj, Murali Krishnan, and Arun Chandravarkar – decided to join her mission, adding strength to her growing company.
In her pursuit of progress and growth for India as a global economy, she firmly believed in the power of entrepreneurship. Emphasizing the importance of nurturing young entrepreneurs, she envisioned a thriving and developed country.
These are the remarkable achievements of Kiran, the visionary founder of Biocon, who defied odds and built a successful enterprise that continues to make waves in the business world.
Unilever Came Into Play And Met Life And Business Partner
BioCon, an Irish company, witnessed a significant development as Irish shareholders decided to sell their portion of shares to Unilever, amounting to approximately 30% of the total shares. This move has transformed BioCon from an amateurish entrepreneurial venture into a more professional and structured organization. Consequently, BioCon now faces increased compliance with regulations, adherence to global standards, and rigorous financial reporting.
The company’s founder, Kiran Majumdar, had an interesting journey to success. In the early 1990s, she met John Shaw, who eventually became both her life partner and business collaborator. The two tied the knot in 1998. Notably, John played a crucial role in helping Kiran reclaim 30% of BioCon’s shares from Unilever at a cost of $2 million. To gather the required funds, John had to sell his townhouse in the UK and utilize “all his savings.”
Further developments unfolded as ICICI Venture came forward, offering $2 million in exchange for a 10% stake in BioCon. Later, AIG acquired these shares at a significant price of $400 million.
This series of events has not only reshaped BioCon’s ownership structure but also opened new avenues for its growth and potential in the Indian business landscape.
Diversification of Product lines
Kiran Majumdar Shaw, the visionary founder of Biocon, propelled the company to unprecedented success through innovation and diversification. Transitioning from enzyme production to biopharmaceuticals, Biocon’s strategic move proved fruitful, particularly with the introduction of recombinant human insulin in 2004, making them the first in India. The subsequent IPO skyrocketed the company’s valuation into billions, and Kiran became India’s first self-made woman entrepreneur. Despite challenges, her unwavering spirit and groundbreaking achievements inspire entrepreneurs and women nationwide. Biocon continues to thrive under her leadership, setting a remarkable precedent for the Indian business landscape.