TiE Austin had hosted an interview by Ms Kerry Rupp with Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the executive chairperson of Biocon Limited, and the former chairperson of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Below are from the notes (in no specific order) I took during the talk:
- There are two types of entrepreneur: The first are those who are looking at how quickly I can make money, how can I take my business to billion dollars; the second ones are like me, those who think how can I make a difference? When I started my bio-tech journey 40 years ago, I started developing enzymes for various businesses. I couldn’t a job as a brewer because I was a women. I started the business with partnership with an Irish company, they were developing enzymes for textile, paper pulp, brewery and starch industry. To replace polluting chemicals with friendly enzymes was not a fashionable word then, nobody paid any price for being environmentally friendly. Luckily, I was able to convince many businesses to switch to enzymes. It was not about how big can I make my company, but doing the right thing.
- Many years later, when I got to expand the business, I started Bio Pharmaceutical business. I thought what change can I bring in this business? India is the most diabetic country in the world, we were importing all our insulin needs, no one could afford the better insulin, instead they were using animal based insulin. I tried with using a yeast I was using in enzymes, I developed a technology from this yeast, to produce a very cost effective insulin, the lowest priced insulin in the world. I am not doing it for free even at 10 cents per day that I announced in WHO, but I still make a profit. I keep thinking on how can I do the same for cancer drugs? There is a new area called Bio Similar biologics. That was my impact making journey.
- Yet, I am creating value, I have pledged to give away more than 50% of my wealth to philanthropy, including helping patients around the world. One of the drugs we developed, was re-purposed to help on COVID.
- Kerry Rupp says in a study, “When Women start business, they help two times their community.“
- There is a part of the world which can pay higher prices, which helps to subsidize the price for poor countries, but we are working on what additional value we can deliver for the countries which are paying a higher price. If you can handle Diabetics better, you save the overall cost of healthcare for insurance companies so they see value in paying a higher price. As a scientist, I believe in a IP led business.
- It is important for companies to have values, our whole company is based on affordable access to patients, focused on cost competitive. Whatever we do, it is for the patients, patients around the world should have access to these life-saving drugs, and you shouldn’t deny it to anyone who needs it badly. We try to see how the Governments play their role in this, if that is not happening, we look at other ways the patients can get the drugs, we need to make a difference in the lives of patients.
- Biocon Biologics which is a subsidiary of Biocon, the CEO of this company is a remarkable woman from German, who we got from a big pharma, she believes in this aspiration and the dream of access to everyone. So when we hire people, we look for people who share our DNA and goal.
- At the moment, I am trading at one of the highest P/E ratios in (Indian) Pharma industry, they attribute that to our value, seeing a lot of growth in us as we have an unique stock offering. Yet, the (same) investors were initially apprehensive with us, we are . Be truth to your purpose, that will get you investors and they will add value to you. I took a lot of risk in our earlier days, our shareholders were cautioning me that I was investing so much on R & D, but over the period they saw the results and are satisfied.
- COVID has shown you, that there is a very big inequality in the world today. Today most of the bailouts are going to the big companies, who had to be (should’ve been) to ready for these risks, but were not. In reality, for an equitable world, the small companies are the ones who need to be helped, but unfortunately it is not happening.
- In our philanthropic efforts we focus on how to build a strong primary health care, COVID has shown that a country like USA is lacking a lot on primary health care. We help the primary health centres, to become a digital health care. If you do it right, you can prevent from the current situation of everyone coming to a primary healthcare centres going to the hospitals.
- My personal philanthropic efforts are much bigger than the company, I try to do more activities on education and infrastructure joining hands with the Government.
- How can companies can take compassionate capitalism and implement in their business? It depends on the individuals, I do want to make money in the business. Capitalism is to make money, doing things to multiply the invested (capital) value, but it is not about doing the wrong things, not to be in a hurry to make money, and to do right things.
[Disclaimer: The notes above are not meant to be comprehensive or accurate, and if there are any mistakes they are due to my notes taking.]