Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is the creator of India’s first biotechnology business, Biocon. She describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.” Her transformation of Biocon into a group of companies that are science-led and innovation-driven is thanks to her strong sense of purpose. These firms help millions of people across the world by making complicated, life-saving biotherapeutics are more affordable.
Kiran, who was born in Bengaluru in 1953, earned a bachelor’s degree in Zoology (Honors) from Bangalore University and a post-graduate certificate in Malting and Brewing from Australia’s Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education. It was at this time that she faced the gender barrier, with many refusing to hire a woman as a brewer. This prompted her to partner with an Irish entrepreneur to launch a biotech firm.
Biocon was the first Indian company to manufacture and export bio-enzymes globally and is now a transnational corporation, leveraging research and development as well as innovation to increase affordable access to highly complex biopharmaceuticals like insulin and antibodies for the benefit of patients globally. It inspires a whole new generation of scientists and engineers to join Biocon to develop, manufacture, and distribute affordable drugs with the potential to benefit a billion patients. Founder Kiran Agrawal recalls how she faced discrimination because she was a woman and biotech was not a popular field at that time.
Kiran Bhatnagar founded Biocon in 1978 and has been involved in the field of biotechnology for over four decades. One of her driving missions was to provide job opportunities for female scientists when she started the company. Her philosophy of equitable access helped thousands of people sustain their lives with affordably priced essential medicines.
Kiran has been awarded several national and international awards. For her tireless efforts in the field of biotechnology, she was awarded the Padma Shri (1989) and Padma Bhushan (2005) by the Indian government. In addition, she has received the Order of Australia, Australia’s highest civilian honor, in 2020; the highest French honor, Knight of the Legion of Honor, in 2016; and the Othmer Gold Award in 2014.