India wasn’t ready for a woman brewer, so Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw built India’s leading biotech company instead

Sometimes failure can be a good thing. In the case of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, being discouraged from a career in brewing as it was considered a “man’s turf,” led her to take on another male bastion, pioneer a new industry and build India’s largest player in biopharmaceuticals, Biocon.

Wanting to start her own business as a 25-year-old woman came with its own set of challenges, but she feels that her run-ins with the patriarchal patrons of the brewing industry prepared her well to face them. Biocon was incorporated on November 29th, 1978 with an investment of  Rs.10,000. Raising a credit line from a bank was almost impossible. Moreover, nobody wanted to work for a woman and the fact that she was operating out of a garage didn’t impress prospective recruits either.

Mazumdar-Shaw says resisting the temptation to exit early is equally important as well. While she received overwhelming support from the men in her life, her late father and her husband,  her fiery independent streak comes from her mother, who even now, at the age of 85, runs her own profitable laundry business. “These are exciting times because the gender barriers are collapsing and my message to all the aspiring entrepreneurs is to go ahead and just do it because you are not going to have it any better,” she says. From someone who has been there and done that, there can be no better advice.

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