Biocon’s Story: How Kiran Majumdar Shaw became India’s most successful women entrepreneur?

Kiran Majumdar Shaw(Founder,CMD-Biocon)
Kiran Majumdar Shaw(Founder,CMD-Biocon)
Kiran Majumdar Shaw(Founder,CMD-Biocon)
The 66 year old Kiran Majumdar Shaw also known as the India’s biotech queen is the India’s richest self-made woman and Founder, Chairperson of Biocon. She has REAL TIME NET WORTH of $2.5 Billion and holds the 617th position on FORBES LISTS of billionaire 2019.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw is India’s richest self-made woman, founded India’s largest biopharmaceutical firm in 1978. Her firm Biocon has successfully expanded into the lucrative US biosimilars pharmaceutical market, catching the attention of investors and creating a surge in market capital.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw’s venture Biocon became the first company to gain approval from the USFDA for two different biosimilars of drugs used in specific cancer treatments. She has invested in research infrastructure and scientific talent with the aim of building a deep R&D-based biotech company, not a copycat generics maker. Her philanthropic initiative, The Majumdar Shaw Medical Centre is sincerely working for affordable cancer care model.

Who is Kiran Majumdar Shaw?

Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, née Kiran Majumdar, (born March 23, 1953, Pune, Maharashtra state, India), in a Guajarati family in Bangalore. Her Father Rasendra Majumdar was the head brewmaster at United Breweries. She went Bangalore’s Bishop Cotton Girl’s High School for the early education. She graduated from there in the year1968.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw at young age
Kiran Majumdar Shaw at young age

Later She got enrolled in Mount Carmel College (Bangalore university Affiliated college) pre-university courses. In 1973, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in zoology .She wanted to join a medical school, but could not obtain a scholarship.

Further, her father Rasendra Majumdar suggested her to study Fermentation technology and obtain training to become a brewmaster, a very non-traditional field for women. In 1974 on her father’s advice Majumdar went to Federation University (formerly University of Ballarat) in Australia to study malting and brewing. Where she was the only female student to get enrolled in the brewing course and she topped in her class.

In 1975, she earned the degree of master brewer and started working as a trainee brewer in Carlton initially then in United Breweries, Melbourne. Later she worked as a trainee master at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia. In between the years 1975 and 1977, for a short period, she also worked as a technical consultant at Jupiter Breweries Limited, Calcutta and as a Technical manager at Standard Maltings Corporation, Baroda.

Meanwhile she began to look abroad for new opportunities and was offered a position in Scotland. Her career started a new direction when she met Leslie Auchincloss. He was the founder of Cork, Ireland based Biocon Biochemicals Limited. Auchincloss’s company was active in production of enzymes for the use in the brewing, food-packaging and textile industries. Auchincloss was interested in opening a subsidiary in India. For this he was looking for an Indian entrepreneur to help establish an Indian subsidiary. Majumdar agreed to do the job on the condition that if she did not wish to continue later six months she would be given a brewmaster’s position comparable to the one she was giving up.

After spending a short period as a trainee manager at Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland,Kiran Majumdar Shaw returned to India to learn more about the business. She started Biocon India in 1978 in the garage of her rented house in Bengaluru with an initial capital of Rs. 10,000. Although it was a joint venture, Indian laws restricted foreign ownership to only 30% of the company. The remaining 70% belonged to Kiran Majumdar Shaw.


Biocon Limited is an Indian biopharmaceutical company based in Bangalore, India. Biocon is the manufacturer of generic active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that are sold in over 120 countries all over the world. The Company also exports to the developed pharmaceutical markets including United States and Europe. Additionally Biocon also produce novel biologics, as well as, biosimilar insulins and antibodies, which are sold in India as branded formulations. Biocon sell its biosimilar products in both bulk and as formulations   in various emerging markets


Syngene International Limited (Syngene), is a publicly listed subsidiary of Biocon active in research services, Syngene is engaged in the business of integrated end-to-end drug discovery and development services.

In Indian Market Biocon Formulation range covers Metabolics, Oncology, Immunotherapy, Nephrology and Specialty. Biocon claims to produce comparably very less expensive range of pharmaceuticals than other leading brands. Biocon has many product brands.Some of Biocon’s featured brands in India include BASALOG (Glargine), INSUGEN (rh-insulin), BIOMAb EGFR (Nimotuzumab), BLISTO (Glimepiride + Metformin), CANMAb (Trastuzumab), Evertor (Everolimus), TACROGRAF (Tacrolimus), ALZUMAb(Itolizumab) and KRABEVA (Bevacizumab).

Biocon and Its subsidiary Syngene together employ about 9400 personnel including biologists, chemists, medical practitioners, pharmacologists, engineers, finance/legal/marketing analysts, HR generalists and general administrators.

Starting from enzyme manufacturing

In her initial days of Biocon, since she was young and a female, she faced credibility challenges. Nobody was ready to show on her untested business model. Investors and Funding issues: Almost all of the banks refused to lend her money, and some required her father be a guarantor. Fortunately, in a chance meeting with a banker at a social event finally enabled her to get her first financial backup.

She faced it hard to recruit new people to work for her startup. She had very limited infrastructure her factory with a nearby 3000 sq. ft. shed had a laboratory in which spectrophotometers were the most sophisticated instruments existing. Initially she faced great technological challenges in order to trying to build a biotech business in a country with such limited infrastructure

She needed uninterrupted power supply, high quality water, sterile labs, imported research equipment, and workers with advanced scientific skills, But in India these necessities were not easily available that time.

Biocon in its initial projects started with the extraction of papain (an enzyme from papaya used to tenderize meat) and isinglass (obtained from tropical catfish and used to clarify beer).In just One year, Biocon India was able to manufacture enzymes and export them to the U.S. and Europe. Biocon became the first Indian company to do so. At the end of first financial year company purchased a 20 acre land for its future expansion plan.

Biocon Acquisition History

In 1989, Ireland’s Biocon Biochemicals was acquired from Leslie Auchincloss by Unilever .The Unilever partnership helped Biocon to inculcate global best practices and quality systems. In 1997 Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) purchased Unilever’s specialty chemicals division, including Biocon.

Marriage with John Shaw:

kiran Majumdar Shaw with her husband John Shaw
kiran Majumdar Shaw with her husband John Shaw

In 1998, John Shaw, a Scottish businessmen and Mazumdar’s fiancée, personally raised $2 million and purchased the outstanding Biocon shares from ICI. The couple married in 1998, whereupon she became known as Kiran Majumdar-Shaw. In 2001 John Shaw left his chairman position at Madura Coats to join Biocon and became vice chairman of Biocon.

Biocon’s Expansion to bio-pharmaceuticals

Biocon evolved from an industrial enzymes manufacturing company to a completely state of art bio-pharmaceutical company with a well-balanced business portfolio of products and a research focus on diabetes, oncology and auto-immune diseases. She also established two subsidiaries of Biocon; Syngene was incorporated in 1994 which provide early research and development support services to clients on contract basis. Whereas the second subsidiary, Clinigene was started in the year 2000 and it focuses on clinical research trials and the development of both generic and new medicines. Later Clinigene merged with Syngene. In 2015 Syngene was listed on BSE/NSE and it is running smoothly with current market cap of US$1.15 billion.

Kiran Majumdar gave Biocon a perfect direction. As early as 1984, she started focusing on discovery of novel enzymes and solid substrate fermentation technology. For this she began building up a state of art R&D expert team inside Biocon. In 1987 Biocon did first major expansion when Narayanan Vaghul of ICICI Ventures (Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India) supported creation of a venture capital fund of US$250,000.The Funding gave a good startup potential to Biocon and company began expanding its R&D capabilities and  built a new plant featuring proprietary solid substrate fermentation technology based on a semi-automated tray culture process., inspired by Japanese techniques. In early 1989, Biocon became the first Indian biotech company to receive U.S. funding for proprietary technologies. Later in 1990, Kiran Majumdar Shaw started Biocon Biopharmaceuticals Private Limited (BBLP) to manufacture and market a select range of bio therapeutics in a joint venture with the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology.

Biocon has the honor to become India’s first USFDA Approved Company and the first company in world to develop human Insulin in Pichia expression system. The Company has developed BIOMAb EGFR, first indigenously developed humanized monoclonal antibody for head-and-neck cancer. Biocon launched   India’s largest Biotech-Hub “Biocon Park. Biocon has developed a wide range of successful biopharmaceutical products like The first biosimilar drug CANMAb to treat breast cancer, INSUPen®, a convenient and affordable reusable insulin delivery device biologic drug ALZUMAb to treat psoriasis, Insugen for diabetes , Mylan-Biocon’s biosimilar for cancer drug Herceptin.

 Biocon’s Subsidiaries and Major acquisitions


In1994, Biocon incorporated its subsidiary Syngene International Pvt. Ltd. As research service providing Custom Research Company (CRC)


Clinigene International Limited is a subsidiary of Syngene which work on clinical research and drug development R&D. It offers international pharmaceutical companies Phase I-IV clinical trials and studies for novel/generic molecules.

Biocon Biopharmaceuticals Private Limited (BBLP)

In 1990, Majumdar incorporated Biocon Biopharmaceuticals Private Limited (BBLP) to manufacture and market a select range of biotherapeutics in a joint venture with the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology.


In 2008, Biocon acquired a majority stake of 70% in German pharmaceutical marketing Company AxiCorp GmbH. AxiCorp is amongst the fastest growing company in Europe. AxiCorp has won the German AOK (a leading public health insurer) tender for Metformin, marking an important milestone for Biocon’s entry into the generics market as well as enabling it to market biosimilar insulin and analogues in the German market. AxiCorp is now an autonomous subsidiary of Biocon and the most successful Indian owned German pharmaceutical company.


Incorporated in January 2008, NeoBiocon is a 50:50 joint venture established with the Abu Dhabi-based pharmaceutical manufacturing company NeoPharma, in order to manufacture and market a range of biopharmaceuticals for the GCC countries (Gulf Cooperation Council).NeoBiocon FZ LLC is a research and marketing pharmaceutical company based in Abu Dhabi. It The new company’s product offering includes biological, proprietary/in-licensed products, targeted therapeutics, research-based differentiated formulations and innovative drug delivery systems. It also launched Abraxane in the UAE

Kiran Majumdar Shaw Philanthropy

biocon foundation
biocon foundationMajumdar incorporated a corporate social responsibility wing at Biocon, the Biocon Foundation in 2004.Biocon Foundation focuses on health, education and rural infrastructure especially in rural areas of Karnataka which lack healthcare facilities. Kiran Majumdar has supported the development of Arogya Raksha Yojana (Disease Protection Program/Health Help). Through this program Biocon Foundation establishes clinics to offer clinical care, generic medicines and basic tests for those who cannot afford them.

After her husband’s and best friend’s death, in order to support cancer research and treatment. In 2009, she established a 1,400-bed cancer care center, the Majumdar-Shaw Medical Foundation.

In 2006, For the Education field, Kiran Majumdar Shaw In collaboration with McMillan India Limited and teacher Prathima Rao supported development and use of a basic mathematics textbook, introduced in Kannada schools .in 2009; she funded Prasad kaipa’s multiyear research program at Indian School of Business.

Meanwhile, Kiran Majumdar Shaw became the recipient of many prestigious awards. The World Economic Forum  recognized her as a “Technology Pioneer” in 2000.In 2002 Ernst & Young awarded her the honor of best entrepreneur in the field of health care and life sciences. In 2004, Economic Times honored her as the businesswoman of the year.

kiranmajumdarshaw with Drkalam
Kiran Majumdar Shaw with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

Significantly, In 2005 Kiran Majumdar Shaw received the Padma Bhushan Award, one of India’s highest civilian honors, for her pioneering work in industrial biotechnology.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw in biotech lab
Kiran Majumdar Shaw in biotech lab

Kiran Majumdar Shaw is the real pioneer of biotechnology in India and also the source of inspiration for every budding entrepreneurs.


Tags: Startup, Startup-Story, Women-Story,   Inspiration,WahBhai-Featured,Biotechnology,Biocon

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