Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw: Shrugging off the stereotypes

The credibility challenges during your growing up years start disappearing when you start demonstrating success - Kiran Mazumdar

She features in the top 5 richest women in India, heads one of the largest biotechnology empires in the world, and is a recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards. She has one of the most inspiring success stories. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – CMD of Biocon – has had a long journey, studying brewing (which was unconventional for women of her time) and then starting her own company when she saw she wasn’t being accepted in the brewing industry.

Mazumdar-Shaw’s story started when her brew master father encouraged her to study the science of brewing and malting. She went to Australia’s Ballarat University, from where she graduated as Master Brewer in 1975. She was the only woman from her batch to pursue the course, and she aced it.

Post her degree, she had a couple of training stints in Australia, and then headed back to India where she got a negative reception. The problem was not with her qualification, it was with her gender. She was told – “You’re a woman. It is difficult for a woman to deal with labour unions. You are high-risk. Can you command the respect of your male colleagues?”

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Not one to concede defeat, Mazumdar-Shaw joined Biocon Biochemicals, an Irish company that was looking for a market expansion in India and found a fierce, goal-oriented partner in her. Mazumdar-Shaw ultimately started her company using INR 10000 in a garage space.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw faced gender barriers during and post her company launch – people were unwilling to work under a female lead, reluctant to provide start-up capital to a woman entrepreneur and unenthusiastic about listening to her idea. She went beyond these issues, making them look small in comparison to her determination – and Biocon soon started exporting industrial enzymes in profitable global markets and earning huge profits. The results are for all to see.

Action Summary:

  • Don’t be perturbed if the world tries to suppress you – it’s their way of making you realise that the time has come to work the suppression in your favour and create waves.

  • One doesn’t need to be of a specific gender to possess determination to make things work. Strength of character and drive are above any barrier – be it gender, age or anything else.

    ~ Atrija Gaur