The Biocon story

By With 25 per cent of th | 07 May 2004


With 25 per cent of the world diabetic population in India, the company sees a great future for its human insulin drug currently under development. MNCs Eli Lily and Novo Nordisk at present dominate the insulin market in India.

Kiran Majumdar ShawWhenever in the future Kiran Majumdar Shaw (50), MD and chairman, Biocon India, looks back on her life, she will surely recall 2004 as a landmark year. No stranger to accolades, she has received several in the course of her 26-year career. The encomia and awards include a Padmashri in 1989, 'best woman entrepreneur' award, model employer, Ernst & Young's entrepreneur of the year award for life sciences & healthcare, leading exporter, outstanding citizen, technology pioneer, etc.

With the listing of Biocon India on the Bombay Stock Exchange at a 50 per cent premium on April 7, she has now been ranked the wealthiest woman entrepreneur in India.

The biggest beneficiary of the listing apart from Majumdar is Biocon India, which has been transformed from a small enzyme maker into a drug firm that is challenging global insulin makers such as Eli Lily and Novo Nordisk.

Such is the buzz surrounding Biocon and the biotechnology industry that within minutes of opening, the Biocon scrip surged to Rs500, zooming past the Rs. 315 issue price in hectic trading before it finally closed at Rs484.34. The stock, which has a face value of Rs5, has propelled the company's market valuation to over $1.1 billion, putting Mazumdar's stake at a whopping Rs1,960 crore ($449 million). Majumdar owns 40 per cent equity in the company she founded over a quarter century ago.

Speaking to a journalist after the listing, Majumdar said, "To me it is just a number. I built this company to deliver a different kind of value.“

Leading business daily, Business Standard, which tracks Indian billionaires, last year named Sudha Murthy, wife of Narayana Murthy, chief operating officer, Infosys Technologies, the wealthiest Indian woman. At present, Sudha Murthy's stake, worth Rs. 740 crore, is less than half of Mazumdar's.

Majumdar started Biocon from a garage in Bangalore with just Rs. 10,000 in her bank. She was born in the city and began her education at Bishop Cotton Girls School followed by Mount Carmel College. And like most students majoring in biology, she made attempts to gain admission into medical school, but with no success. In her own words, “I got rejected by medical schools, which made me take up biology instead.“

She later went on to Ballarat College, Melbourne, specialising in malting and brewing in the tradition of her father, a master brewer at United Breweries. She was the only woman in an all-male class but managed to top the class when she completed her course to become a brew master. She later co-invented a unique cauldron based on fermentation techniques, now Biocon's patented biotechnology reactor and a key showpiece of the company's achievements.

But life in the brewing profession was not easy with breweries hesitating to employ a woman in an all-male domain, as they felt a woman would not be able to handle labour-related. Rebuffed by the trade of her specialisation, she turned to biotechnology.

Biocon was named after Mazumdar's Irish joint venture partner, who partly funded the company and whose stake was later acquired by Unilever. The co-founders bought back that stake when the Anglo-Dutch group exited the JV in 1998.

Biocon, besides making enzymes and drugs to fight diabetes, cancer and cholesterol, has separate units offering contract research and clinical trial services for global clients. The company has a team of 1,200 technical experts and has 130 patents to its credit.

The company aims to grow its revenue by 30 per cent a year to more than $1 billion over the next decade to figure among the top ten biotech companies in the world.

With 25 per cent of the world's diabetic population in India, the company sees a great future for its human insulin drug currently under development. MNCs Eli Lily and Novo Nordisk at present dominate the insulin market in India. The market for insulin in India is currently estimated at Rs200 crore. Having received USFDA clearance to market drugs in the US, Biocon India will soon be competing globally.

Majumdar works with her Scottish husband, John Shaw, who quit his job as a financial expert in Madura garments to become Biocon's vice-chairman.

In a recent television interview Majumdar said she was embarrasses by the appellation of the richest woman in India. It's more important to her that she has been able to create a very valuable organisation and the opportunity her company has provided to thousands of scientists.

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