November 29, 2023

The conversation with Mazumdar-Shaw was spearheaded by Aditya Ghosh, chief mentor, Ladies Who Lead, and co-founder of Akasa Air.
Published: 24th September 2022 06:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2022 06:53 AM   |  A+A-
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Aditya Ghosh and LWL CEO & founder Aabha Bakaya caught in a candid moment before the event | NAGARAJA GADEKAL
BENGALURU: Celebrated entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who has recently invested in the Science Gallery, Bengaluru, and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), speaks to a crowd of fellow women entrepreneurs about being an accidental entrepreneur

In a country like India, women are not welcome in the business world,” says Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw to an auditorium packed with fellow women entrepreneurs, who nod in agreement, as the executive chairperson and founder of Biocon and Biocon Biologics delves into her past to share helpful anecdotes with other women who lead. The event, held at Biocon’s auditorium on Friday, was organised by Ladies Who Lead (LWL), a non-profit organisation geared towards empowering women in business and #SheInspires, a platform by Biocon Biologics to highlight their women in science.
The conversation with Mazumdar-Shaw was spearheaded by Aditya Ghosh, chief mentor, Ladies Who Lead, and co-founder of Akasa Air. “I was asked to head Biocon India by Biocon Biochemicals’ founder Les Auchincloss at a time when I wasn’t even looking for any entrepreneurial venture. I was only 25 years old and was trying to get a job as a brewer. That’s why I like to call myself an accidental entrepreneur,”laughs Mazumdar- Shaw.
Feuds with patriarchy
A major issue Mazumdar- Shaw had battled throughout her 44-year career as a woman entrepreneur was patriarchy. Outside of trying to get funding for Biocon in the late 1970s and early ’80s, sexism reared its prejudicial head when Mazumdar-Shaw was looking to build her core team for the company. “Back then, I was working out of my garage, which I had converted into an office.
I had put out advertisements in newspapers that Biocon was looking to hire people. But many who showed up for interviews used to not take the job as they did not want to work under a woman. Some of them mistook me for being a secretary as well,” says Mazumdar-Shaw, who added that one of her friends, who was working as a teacher, quit her job to join as her secretary. “But eventually, I found people who wanted to work for me, including my R&D head, who had just passed out of an IIT back then. Many of the members from the early team stayed with me for decades,” she shares.
Battles with cancer
Apart from Biocon combatting diabetes and Covid, which came as a national need, the biopharmaceutical company’s entry into cancer research has been more of a personal journey for Shaw. “After my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to sell her property to get treatment. I realised how unjust the system was that someone had to sell their belongings to get the treatment they deserved. My husband, John Shaw, was al s o diagnosed with cancer, and later, my mother as well.
After such experiences, I decided to venture into cancer research so that general people can afford the treatment in the future as well. Since then, Biocon has gone on to become the first global company to have a USFDA-approved breast cancer drug,” says Ma zumd a r – Shaw, who has also recently created a company named Immuneel Therapeutics Private Limited with one of India’s premier oncologists, Siddharth Mukherjee.
Mazumdar-Shaw also believes in philanthropy, which she says her father had instilled in her. “My father used to say money is not a currency to buy favours, it is a currency to make a difference,” she says. So for someone who has achieved so much, including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, what would Shaw like to be remembered as? “I would like it if people remember me as someone with multi-faceted interests who was more than a woman of science,” concludes Mazumdar- Shaw.
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