Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon, tells P.B. Jayakumar about the key lessons she has learnt in business life.
The biggest challenge you faced in your career
Throughout my career, I have had to fight an unceasing battle against this climate of risk aversion in our country. Investors in India prefer predictable, imitative business models and me-too products, where they have the visibility of assured returns. But truly innovative business models find no takers here. Real innovation has an inherent element of high risk and Indians are averse to it. So, you do not see people in India investing in real innovations.
Your Best Teacher in Business
Herbert Wayne “Herb” Boyer, an iconic researcher and biotech entrepreneur who jump-started the biotechnology industry by inventing recombinant DNA technology along with geneticist Stanley Cohen. He went on to set up the pioneering biotech company Genentech with venture capitalist Bob Swanson. Although Boyer and Swanson faced scepticism, they pursued their research as they had a strong belief in their idea. Within a few years, Genentech scientists began making medicines by splicing genes into fast-growing bacteria that produced therapeutic proteins. Recombinant Human Insulin was its first product, which was licensed to Eli Lilly for commercialisation. Biocon’s success with Recombinant Insulin as its first therapeutic protein, introduced in India in 2004, makes a curious connection between the two companies.
One Management Lesson for Young People
Failure is bound to arise at many stages of your life. In my entrepreneurial journey, my ability to face and learn from failure and move on has helped me a great deal in being successful. Life is a journey of conquering boulders as you climb towards the peak. Failures provide the experience that no amount of success can. I often say ‘failure is temporary’ but ‘giving up is permanent’. When you fail, learn from it instead of getting defeated and giving up permanently. Risk and failure are intrinsic to business and those that can manage these well usually succeed.
The article first appeared in Business World Magazine in Print Edition on November 19, 2017