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At the helm

A tête-à-tête with Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who transformed her garage lab to a leading biotech firm

Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

`INDIA'S MOTHER of invention' is how New York Times prefers to describe her. And a recent survey ranked her the richest woman in the country.

Fifty one year old Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon Limited happens to be the trailblazer who transformed the Bangalore based garage lab she set up to extract enzyme from papaya in 1978 to a leading biotech firm in the country, developing indigenous products including a pool of over 70 enzymes in commercial production and the life-saving human insulin today. Kiran, who was in town recently, feels biotechnology is the next sunrise industry after IT in the country. "India has a unique advantage in process skill and research capabilities," she says.

A zoologist turned brewer (she has a postgraduate degree in breweries from Australia) Kiran prefers to focus her attention to her biopharmaceutical giant at the moment. Which translates to "far too many hours at the desk," she says. "I don't socialise much. In the past five years I have gone out barely once a month. I did not attend a single party this Diwali. I miss going out to art shows and book releases. There are long hours and responsibilities to shoulder," says the queen of Indian biotechnology.

Kiran has won, among several awards including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Padma Shri (1989), citations as Model Employer. "I take a common sense approach to HRD, non hierarchical structures of reporting and delegation of responsibility," she observes.

People she admires include Azim Premji and Devishetty and has a h penchant for, "golf and Indian contemporary art," she informs. She brought Yousuf Arrakal, T.M. Aziz, Jatin Das and other leading names for her Ale and Arty, a coffee table book on brewing and art.

A conscientious citizen, Kiran has been active in the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) for greener Bangalore as well as founder AWARE (Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka). Her advise to wannabe opportunists, "its exciting. One needs to have risk taking characteristics and the ability to learn from failures in order to be a successful entrepreneur," she sums up as she heads to yet another keynote address to the youth.


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