“I managed to do things with a lot of common sense, a lot of determination, and a lot of foolish courage.”
As a child growing up in Bangalore, India, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was aware of her country’s national pride in its contributions to chemistry and related sciences. She was also well aware of cultural norms that often limited the social mobility of women. With some trepidation Mazumdar-Shaw inherited her father’s title of master brewer at United Breweries, an event that led to a chance meeting with Leslie Auchincloss, founder of the biotechnology company Biocon Biochemicals.
In 1978 Mazumdar-Shaw became managing director for Biocon India, a business she referred to in newspaper ads as a “multinational company.” What she neglected to tell applicants, however, was that Biocon India was operating out of her home garage. With just two unlikely employees, a master brewer’s certificate, and her father’s blessing Mazumdar-Shaw began a business specializing in industrial enzymes for food and textile makers around the globe.
Today Biocon is the largest biotech corporation in India and home to more than 5,000 employees. In recent years the business has expanded into the pharmaceutical industry, becoming Asia’s chief producer of insulin and an innovator of treatments for diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Mazumdar-Shaw has been recognized by both Time and Forbes for her scientific and philanthropic ambition.
- Listen to an episode of CHF’s award-winning podcast Distillations featuring Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who talks about the changes happening in India as a result of the global pharmaceutical industry.
- Listen to another episode of Distillations about the process of brewing beer.
- Read more about new technologies in the fight against diabetes.
- Read the film transcript.