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Interview with Biocon Founder, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw


A woman packed with power and knowledge and a strong passion for innovation, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the chairman and managing director of Biocon Ltd, has not only ‘broken myths’ surrounding Indian biotech culture but has also given a face to the very industry. Her life story is highly inspiring and her pursuit of creativity has helped her attain huge milestones. She was recently here at Jain (Deemed-to-be University) to address a valedictory speech at the 3rd Annual Research Retreat and we are thankful to her for her valuable time as she shared her views and thoughts on entrepreneurship and beyond. Read on to find more about her thought-provoking ideas and visions.

How important is it for researchers to use scientific collaborations to speed up their research work?

Research is inherently about collaborations. It is about having a scientific curiosity that basically questions and creates new knowledge and you cannot keep that knowledge contained in isolation. So, you need to collaborate to see how that research is relevant and how it can be converted into something else. I think that the fact that you are having a Research Retreat, where you are bringing researchers from everywhere, is actually a very important part of that understanding that you cannot research in isolation. Research has to be collaborative, multi-disciplinary and of course, in another way, there has to be a collaboration not just within academia but outside academia, where industry, government, and other stakeholders come in.

What is the importance of the inter-disciplinary approach in the field of entrepreneurship and how well can entrepreneurs use it to their advantage while planning to start their businesses?

I think when you start an enterprise you need to be a Jack of all trades, you need to understand what it takes to get an innovative idea to the market, and that is what entrepreneurship is all about. First, you need to understand the idea of your business itself and then you need to figure out what it takes to convert that idea into something tangible, and then gradually transform that into some commercial aspect. So you need to know marketing, financial implications, you need to understand customer feedback, market dynamics, competition, and that is why it is multi-disciplinary in nature.

Many Indians are increasingly showing a willingness to be entrepreneurs, and many of these entrepreneurs show interest in a similar area, so do you think there are high chances of duplication of ideas?

It doesn’t matter if there are similar ideas. As an entrepreneur, you need to sift through those ideas. Even if you have a similar idea, you can make your idea look different. Basically, it is about understanding what is that business is about. For instance, if there are multiple people who believe there is an opportunity in creating a cosmetic beauty line, the idea is the same, but how do you make your cosmetic range different from others, is what matters. You have to create your business model even if the idea is very similar.

Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw addressing the doctoral scholars and research guides at Research Retreat 2016

Jain (Deemed-to-be University) has been taking many initiatives since the time of its inception to foster entrepreneurship, my question is how do you think university like Jain can help students identify their own original ideas and establish a business based on that?

Universities should only help in creating incubators, and those incubators should foster people who have an entrepreneurial intent. So, from a university’s point of view, I think you need to have a system which basically allows people to come up with their business models and then have a group of people who know what’s entrepreneurship is about and actually select potentially good entrepreneurs and give them as their prize a space in the incubator. These incubators can be used to keep the mundane matters out of the way of an entrepreneur and these matters include registering your company, filing for tax registration, your sales tax registration, et cetera. If you can take that pain away, you actually allow time to entrepreneurs to spend in building their businesses and then they can seek help from consultants in order to shape their enterprises.

Does Bangalore still have that enabling ecosystem as it used to be when you had started Biocon and is it actually progressing on the same line?

I think Bangalore, today, is the most exciting and energetic ecosystem that any entrepreneur would love to belong to. It is progressing amazingly well. We have created an amazing ecosystem and this ecosystem is about scientists, engineers, companies, investors, angel investors, VCs and it has a very tech-savvy environment as well, which also plugs into the academic environment, and because of that, we have managed to create a very interesting ecosystem for startups. This is the only city with first-generation entrepreneurs where every one of us has taken huge risks and this is one of the key aspects that has helped it become a successful entrepreneurial city. Without taking a risk you cannot create entrepreneurship. Bangalore is one city where every entrepreneur that you can look at has taken a big risk, be it in the tech-field or in the non-tech field.

What measures do you think the government can take to ease the policy and procedures for doing business, keeping the need of women entrepreneurs in mind?

As a woman, I have believed that I don’t want any special incentives, and I think women must learn to stand on their own. We just need an environment that allows us to run our businesses in a very effective way. I think whether you are a man or a woman, as an entrepreneur, we don’t want too much bureaucracy, licenses, permissions, and inspections. So, my advice to the government is, let an entrepreneur do what they can to build their businesses for the first five years and then once they are stable then you can make them compliant with many other things that you want them to be.