What's brewing with Kiran?
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, begum of biotechnology, is back in the news, with Biocon going public
Kiran is many things rolled into one. She is an art collector, civic activist, brew master, and runs the country's biggest biopharmaceutical company
KIRAN MAZUMDAR Shaw is described as the "cover girl" of Indian biotechnology industry. She started Biocon with a small capital in 1978 (collaborating with an Irish firm) to make enzymes. This was at a time when biotechnology was an alien word in India. Today, Biocon is an integrated biopharmaceutical, the biggest in the country. Something of a brand ambassador for Indian biotechnology, Kiran wears many other feathers in her cap as an art collector, a civic activist, a brewmaster, and so on. With a degree in malting and brewing technology from a college in Melbourne, she is, incidentally, India's first woman brewmaster.
Kiran has been in news recently for two reasons Biocon went public and she won the Whirlpool GR8 Women Award under the science and technology category. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw spoke to Metroplus about her concerns in an e-mail interview:
You started your company in a small way at a time when the government policies looked upon small industries with much greater sympathy than they do now. Do you think you would have made it to where you have today if the current attitudes prevailed then?
When I set up Biocon, whilst there were schemes for SSIs, I found it very difficult to raise loans being a woman as well as the fact that no one understood this strange new field of Biotechnology! I do believe that entrepreneurs today have far greater access to capital than I had.
How tough was the business of breaking the invisible "glass ceiling"? Does it make you unhappy when people insist on calling you a "woman entrepreneur" and evaluate you with a special emphasis on gender?
I have grown beyond that sensitivity of reacting to the term "woman entrepreneur". I now think it will be a matter of pride to be called so as there are now a number of flourishing female entrepreneurs in our country and let's face it, women in business get noticed much more than men!
You have described yourself as "outspoken, impatient, and undiplomatic". But can that work, considering that running a mammoth industry means a constant interaction with politicians and bureaucracy?
I always believe that honest and vocal people do make a positive impact even on politicians and bureaucrats. They may dislike you for some of the things you say but they also respect you for your honesty.
From your association with BATF to being an art collector, you are a woman of several "co-curricular" activities.
How do you cope?
Whilst my interests are multi-faceted, I find it difficult to do all the things that I could do in the past fewer art shows, fewer plays and concerts, no weekend golf etc.. However, I still try and apportion some time for all these interests.
Aren't initiatives like BATF and Keep Koramangala Clean, with which you are associated, elitist campaigns?
They are to a certain extent elitist campaigns as the slum dweller is not educated enough to know that garbage and unclean surroundings can cause deadly diseases and epidemics. Isn't it our duty to educate and clean our environment? Isn't it a matter of civic mindedness to have good and clean habits?
What does it mean to be a wife and a homemaker in all this? Or is "homemaker" too clichéd a tag?
A keen balance is vital irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman.
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