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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: She came, she saw, she conquered!

Source | | Nikshubha Garg

As we walk towards the shoot location at a Mumbai five star, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw greets every staff member with an endearing smile, lightening up faces around. Dressed in a raw silk shirt-jacket, fringe pants, and a silk scarf, she is visibly pepped, and tells us it’s high time women in science get prominence in the media. “It’s important,” she says, with an admirable earnestness. Surprisingly, the entrepreneur claims to have never shot for a cover like this. “This is a long shoot, I will follow instructions,” she quips, getting ready to face the camera.

Shaw, 66, is the chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, a biotechnology company she kick-started in a garage in Bangalore in 1978. “I take pride in terming Biocon the first tech start-up in the country,” she beams. Her contribution to biotechnology earned her the Padma Shri (1989) and the Padma Bhushan (2005). In 2010, Shaw was named among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. In 2014, she was listed as the 92nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In 2015, she shot to the 85th position. She featured on the list yet again in 2016 and 2017 at the 77th and 71st positions respectively. With credentials such as this, evidently, she has been there, done that, but “doesn’t believe in the word ‘retiring’.”

You made it big at a time when it wasn’t common to see a woman take on business. What gave you the strength to make a move in that direction?
Training as a brewmaster was a bold decision for those times (’70s). I gained confidence and self-assurance when I topped my class at Federation University in Australia where I studied malting and brewing. I was the only woman amongst 10 men, and realised that gender doesn’t matter. Knowledge is democratic; it’s up to you to learn, and develop competence in anything you put your mind to.

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