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Biocon Limited – The Pharmaceutical Giant With A Gentle Heart


Biocon started off back on the 29th of November, 1978, with manufacturing and exporting papain and isinglass. It was driven by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw's idea that the world and India itself deserve the best possible medication at the lowest price imaginable. They have since moved from the original business plan, upgrading it on the go, but their philosophy has stayed the same.

Today, Biocon is regarded as one of the most influential pharmaceutical companies in the world, with their active pharmaceutical ingredients being sold on a global level, both in the United States and Europe.

None of this would've happened had it not been for Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the woman who operated the Indian wing of Biocon, which helped launch the company to the stars.

Read the full story behind the woman who helped turn Biocon into an industry giant:

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw's Early Life

Born on March 3rd 1953, in Pune, Maharashtra state, India, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had a humble and ordinary childhood. She graduated at Bangalore's Bishop Cotton Girls' High School in 1968, she then went on to finish her pre-university courses as an affiliate of Bangalore University, obtaining her bachelor's degree in zoology in 1973.

Always striving to fulfill her intellectual potential, Kiran had her ambitions set high, with her heart set on attending medical school. Unfortunately, she did not obtain the needed scholarship, so instead she took her father's advice and enrolled to study fermentation science.

Kiran was not bothered by the conservative understanding at the time, that being a master brewer was a man's field of science. Never one to disappoint, she went to Ballarat College, Melbourne University in Australia to study malting and brewing, excelling at the studies and becoming top in her class, despite the fact that she was the only woman enrolled. Graduating in 1975 and now officially a master brewer, Kiran found herself firmly stationed on the ground with only the sky as her limit.

And she was never one to aim low or avoid challenges!

The Woman that Refused 'No' for an Answer

India's traditional standpoint on the position as a brewmaster once again came to hunt young Kiran - she couldn't find a job anywhere as it was 'a man's job'. This would not change her view, as she was a strong-willed woman holding a never-say-die attitude. She pictured a world in which she could help the population of India, and she wouldn't be that easily deterred by anyone.

She meant to move to Scotland looking for job opportunities, and she even had her bags packed, before fate got in the way. In 1977, she met Leslie Auchincloss, the founder of Biocon Biochemicals Limited. Looking for a person of passion and young entrepreneurial spirit to help him launch his company in India, Auchincloss had no real need to look further than Kiran.

The two formed a partnership and in 1978, 'Biocon India' was born in Kiran's garage with a capital of only 10,000 Rs. An Indian law in place at the time meant that Biocon India's parent entity back in Scotland could only have 30% of the company's ownership, leaving the rest 70% to Kiran. A bigger percentage meant that the responsibilities grew too, but looking back on it, there was no person more fit to carry this heavy burden.

The Myth Breaker

Described by her biographer as a 'myth-breaker', young Kiran had to live up to this nickname during the first year of Biocon India more than ever. Faced with challenges such as lack of fundings, clean working environment, bureaucratic difficulties and the social prejudices, she had the tough work cut out for her.

Even so, in the first year of Biocon India's existence, they managed to make and successfully export the products of papain and isinglass back to the parent entity in Scotland.

In the years that followed, Biocon India showed no signs of slowing down. They continued the good work with Kiran being the head of operations, and make no mistake about it, it was no easy task producing enzymes to diverse industries like food and beverages, animal feed, textiles, and then, as if that was not enough, everything they produced found its place on the global market, exported in both Europe and the United States, becoming the first Indian company to accomplish a feat of such magnitude.

Kiran's entrepreneurial genius could have been sensed then and there, as she used the newly gained profits to buy a 20-acre property. She was preparing the ground for what was to come, as she had a vision of how the company will develop.

Kiran's biographer was right: Tell this woman 'no' - and she will find a way to make you say 'yes'. Challenge her with a myth, and watch her break it!

Entering the World of Biopharmaceuticals

By the mid 90s, Biocon India became the biggest and leading enzymes production company in India, but its potential for growth was unfulfilled, and Shaw knew it. Her vision stretched further than that and they soon ventured into research on biopharmaceuticals. The possibilities here were endless and they were ready to use them to the maximum.

In the meantime, another story completely different from the one in India was developing, a story that would indirectly shape the future of Biocon India. To be precise, the parent entity, Biocon Biochemicals was being acquired by a brand called Unilever, who weren't very pleased with the idea of Biocon India conducting research on biopharmaceuticals.

Never one to back down from a vision or a revolutionary idea in her head, Kiran found the solution to this obstacle to be a rather simple one. She had to buy out the 30% owned by Unilever. She managed to do so, and in 1998 Biocon India went independent.

Now, wings ajar and ready to grow, the company had no one to stop them from researching the biopharmaceuticals, with one idea only, helping the Indian people by providing the best possible life saving medicine at an affordable price.

Under Kiran's leadership, the company grew and expanded to new, big markets, with their biggest break coming in March 2004, when Biocon went public, and managed to become the second Indian company to end their first day with more than a billion dollars in worth, landing at $1.11 billion.

Since joining the big leagues, Biocon has been making big strides in the world of pharmaceuticals, with notable advances and innovations made in medicine and technology used to treat diabetes, but also other diseases, becoming a true pioneer and industry leader.


Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a holy name in the pharmaceutical world of India. For her, the biggest profit she could ever make is improving the lives of the Indian people.

For her efforts, she has received numerous Indian Civilian awards, including The Padma Shri in 1989 and the Padma Bhushan in 2005, presented to her by the president of India for her efforts in industrial biotechnology.

Today, Biocon India is regarded as one of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical game both in India and the world. With their focus turned towards treating diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases, regarded as the biggest health problems in India.

Biocon remains a company whose chairman never wanted to just take the money of its citizens, but rather, give them a solution for the least amount of money possible - and that was Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw's biggest entrepreneurial quality.

The fact that the top of her values list is not money or profit. It's being humane, and helping those who really need it!