Self-made business honcho who broke the glass ceiling
In 2019, she and her husband, the late John Shaw, donated $7.5 million to the University of Glasgow to create a research hub and professional chair of precision oncology.
Executive Chairperson, Biocon Ltd and Biocon Biologics Ltd, Bengaluru, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, has been recognised as the second most generous woman philanthropist in this year’s EdelGive-Hurun India Philanthropy list.
Her philanthropic contributions of Rs 96 crore have benefited the science, research & education, social & environment, and art & culture segments in FY2023. This tenth edition of the EdelGive-Hurun India Philanthropy List features individuals who have donated Rs 5 crore or more during April 2022–March 2023, which positions Kiran among the top 15 philanthropists in India after writer, author and philanthropist Rohini Nilekani, also from Bengaluru, who has been recognised by EdelGive-Hurun as the most generous woman philanthropist with her contribution of Rs 170 crore towards ecosystem building.
Kiran is a self-made pioneering Indian biotech entrepreneur, who founded her firm Biocon in 1978 in Bengaluru from out of her garage with two employees and a master brewer’s certificate from Melbourne University.
Kiran was deeply inspired by her father to strive for excellence and be second to none. Like him, she aspired to become a brewmaster and got a Masters in malting and brewing. But in the 1970s, a woman could not carve out a career as a brewmaster. She searched the global market for jobs, and a chance meeting with an Irish biotech entrepreneur set her on her journey with Biocon. There was no looking back for her from then on.
Kiran dared to venture into a male-dominated world and broke stereotypes. With a vision to provide affordable healthcare, she began her journey from a young entrepreneur and a financial risk for banks to a leading businesswoman and visionary.
Biocon manufactures generic active pharmaceutical ingredients that are sold in approximately 120 countries, including the US and Europe, and has Asia’s largest insulin factory in Malaysia’s Johor. A global influencer, Kiran is not new to philanthropy. In 2019, she and her husband, the late John Shaw, donated $7.5 million to the University of Glasgow to create a research hub and professional chair of precision oncology.
“I think many of us first-generation entrepreneurs who have built very successful businesses have come together to take a common approach to philanthropy. We believe that every generation has to create new wealth and… a large part of it must go back into making the society better. It is this belief that led me to focus my philanthropic efforts with a zeal to change the world for the better,” says Kiran.
In 2015, she became the first Indian woman to join ‘The Giving Pledge’, an initiative of the Gates Foundation, committing to give the majority of her wealth to philanthropic causes and the second Indian to join the initiative after businessman Azim Premji.
Among the several awards, Kiran’s most cherished remain the Padma awards — India’s highest civilian awards. In 1989, she was conferred the Padma Shri, and Padma Bhushan in 2005 for her innovative efforts in industrial biotechnology. She was also featured in 2010 on the Forbes ‘100 Most Powerful Women’ list and Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ list. In 2014, she was honoured with the Othmer Gold Medal for her pioneering development of the Indian biotechnology industry.
Besides Biocon, her commitment to research and innovation in biotechnology and medical science find expression in the Shaw-Mazumdar Super Specialty Hospital and Shaw-Mazumdar Oncology Centre in Bengaluru and her untiring effort to reach out to sanitation workers in the city. Over the last four years, Kiran has been providing sweets to street sweepers and sanitation workers of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike during Deepavali.
She is a proud Bengalurean, and has been an active participant in the city’s infrastructure development. A well-known aspect of Kiran’s persona is her love for art. She is an avid art patron and has a fine selection of art works displayed in her office premises and residence.Kiran is a strong advocate of clean and green technologies. She believes that true leaders are visionaries with a sense of purpose, who persevere and have a passion for change.