From Beer to Biotech: India's 'Mother of Invention'

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder and co-chair of Biocon Ltd, Asia’s largest biotech firm, recently shared her experiences as a female biotech entrepreneur in India at an event organised by student groups from the Chicago Graduate School of Business.

by Chicago Graduate School of Business
Last Updated: 28 Jan 2016

In fact, the "biotech queen" started her career as a beer brewer. After a stint in Australia, she became a master brewer, a skill that didn’t earn her much recognition upon her return to India. But after meeting an Irish biotech entrepreneur, she decided to start a biotech company in India.

"I said if I can’t be a brewer, let me try to set up a biotech company instead," Mazumdar-Shaw explained. "Now instead of using yeast to ferment beer I use yeast to make insulin."

At the time (1978), she had difficulties securing start-up money for her pharmaceutical company. "It was difficult to convince people that I should be taken seriously as a 25-year-old woman," she said. Her persistence paid off. She got her first loans but struggled for another 10 years, until she met another entrepreneur who had just started a venture capital fund and could provide the much needed funds. Doors began opening. Her company is now listed.

In all, she went from starting the company out of her garage with 10,000 rupees ($2,000) to owning with her husband a 65% share of a $1 billion company that manufactures and researches drugs. "I’ve never given up," she said. "I always say if you persevere, you will find the right people and the right opportunities."

Source: From Beer to Biotech: India's "Mother of Invention"
Mary Sue Penn
Chicago Graduate School of Business News

Review by Emilie Filou

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