Success Story of Kiran Majumdar Shaw: The Pharma Queen

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Kiran Majumdar Shaw is the founder and CEO of Biocon Limited – one of the prominent Biopharmaceutical companies in the world. She is also known as -The Pharma Queen. Let’s read her success story and get to know how an Indian-origin women entrepreneur became nation’s pride and a flagbearer of women’s courage on foreign lands.

“I really believe that entrepreneurship is about being able to face failures, manage failures and succeed after failing” – Kiran Majumdar Shaw.

Early Years

Starting an extraordinary company like Biocon, was not at all an easy task for Kiran. Even though she had an incredible educational background and expertise, she faced rejections and failures since her childhood to adulthood. She was born in a middle-class family in Karnataka to the Gujarati Parents. Being a daughter of a brewmaster, she was little familiar with the profession his father was engaged in for years. After completing her graduate degree in biology and zoology from Bangalore University,  she wanted to pursue medical but could not acquire scholarship.

But she did not give up and followed her father footsteps and went to Australia to study fermentation science. One of the amazing things happened to her when she topped the class by being a single girl in the entire classroom. As she acquired her master degree as a brewer, she positioned herself as a trainee employee at various breweries like – Carlton and United Breweries, Barret Brothers and Burston.

As it is believed, “Luck comes to those who have courage to do hard work”, it got proven when Kiran met Leslie Auchinclose. Leslie was the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland. At that time, the limited company was engaged in the production of enzymes which used in the process like – brewing, food packaging and textiles.

Leslie was looking for a partner to help him establishing a subsidiary in India and supply him Papain.  Kiran Majumdar got the offer of being a trainee manager at Biocon Biochemicals Limited, Ireland.

Biocon: An Idea turned into Reality

After getting a valuable experience of working in Ireland, she returned to India. The comeback was not an ordinary return. Kiran Majumdar was all ready to saw the seeds of one of the biggest Biopharmaceutical companies which was in her mind till then.

She founded Biocon in 1978 only with a seed capital of 10,000 rupees from her house garage. Things were not as easy for her, as she gave a thought about it. In the start of business, she faced credibility issues, lack of funding and bad infrastructure, technology deficiency and gender differentiation. No one was interested in her business idea because she was a woman. Kiran kept on believing her capacities and did not keep her morale down. And that’s how it is said, God favor those who favor themselves. She got her first funding from a banker whom she met coincidently in a social event.

 The company started its journey with the production of Papain, an enzyme obtained from Papaya to tenderize meat and isinglass, an enzyme used to clarify beer obtained from catfish. Not only production but also exports became the focus of the business initially. 

Expansion with Diversification

As time flies and business started flourishing. The company gets expanded and diversified from enzymes production to medicines production.  The sales started to happen and brought money which was used in the R&D for the production of pharmaceutical drugs. She also bought a 20 acres propertied land to expand the business. Today, the business has two subsidiaries, one is entirely focused on doing Research and Development (Syngene) and the other (Clinigene) is subjective to clinical trials. She endowed Biocon, the tag of the first manufacturer of enzymes in the country which was substantial for the nation.

Feats and Accolades

The two subsidiaries got listed in both Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange in 2015. Presently, the market capitalization of Biocon stand at 289.69 billion INR.  In 2010, she was named TIME magazine’s Most influential people in the world. In 2014, she was ranked 92nd in the most powerful women list and in 2015, she ranked 85th in the same category. In 2022, she is in the 77th position of the Forbes most powerful women list. Presently, she has a net worth of 230 crores USD.

Final Words

Today she is an inspiration for many self-made women in the industry thriving hard to obtain a position which is meaningful and full of dignity. Biocon has evolved and flourished exponentially over the years under her leadership is proving the saying, “leadership is not gendered.”

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