Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is an Indian billionaire entrepreneur and businesswoman. She is the executive chairperson and founder of Biocon Limited and Biocon Biologics Limited, a biotechnology company based in Bangalore, India, and the former chairperson of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
The daughter of a brewmaster for India-based United Breweries, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw initially planned to follow in her father’s footsteps. She earned an undergraduate degree in zoology from Bangalore University in 1973 and subsequently, a graduate degree in brewing from the University of Ballarat, Melbourne, in 1975. Upon returning to India, however, there were no companies willing to offer a brewing job to a woman. Instead, she did consulting work for a few years before meeting Leslie Auchincloss, then owner of an Irish firm, Biocon Biochemicals. Impressed by Mazumdar-Shaw’s drive and ambition, Auchincloss took her on as a partner in a new venture, Biocon India, which was launched in 1978 and produced enzymes for alcoholic beverages, paper, and other products.
Within a year Biocon had become one of the first Indian companies to export enzymes to the United States and Europe, but progress was slowed as Mazumdar-Shaw continued to face skepticism and discrimination. She found it difficult to find employees in India who were willing to work for a woman. Investors were equally hard to come by, and some vendors refused to do business with her unless she hired a male manager. Nevertheless, the company had begun to turn a profit by the time Auchincloss sold his interest in Biocon India to Unilever in 1989. Imperial Chemical Industries bought Unilever’s stake in 1997 but eventually agreed to sell its shares to Mazumdar-Shaw’s husband, textile executive John Shaw, who subsequently joined Biocon’s management team.