Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw from India is the winner of the 2020 EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is the founder of Asia’s largest biotech company, Biocon, and she is a role model for female entrepreneurs around the world. She was picked from among 46 award winners from 41 countries and territories vying for the world title.
“She has built India’s largest biopharmaceutical company on a foundation of compassionate capitalism and putting patient needs before profits.”
“Kiran is an inspirational entrepreneur who demonstrates that determination, perseverance and a willingness to innovate can create long-term value. The judging panel were impressed by her ability to build and sustain growth over the past 30 years and by her integrity and passion for philanthropy that has delivered huge global impact. She has built India’s largest biopharmaceutical company on a foundation of compassionate capitalism and putting patient needs before profits,” says Manny Stul, Chairman and Co-CEO of Moose Toys and Chair of the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel.
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year started in the US in 1986 and honors entrepreneurs with a clear vision and strong leadership qualities that are building successful companies. The contest is arranged on a regional, national and international level in more than 140 cities in more than 60 countries. An independent jury evaluates the entrepreneurs after criteria like entrepreneurship, economic growth, strategic focus, impact on the surrounding world, innovation and personal integrity and influence.
This is the second time in the award’s history that the award goes to a woman.
A global thought leader
1975 was a pivotal year for Dr Mazumdar-Shaw, writes the jury. She had graduated from brewing school in Australia and had returned to India, ready to embark on a career as a master brewer. She quickly discovered that, despite her expertise, no one would hire a woman. Undeterred, she decided to create her own business and prove that “women should not be underestimated or denied opportunity just because of gender stereotypes”.
“Women should not be underestimated or denied opportunity just because of gender stereotypes.”
Biocon, the company she founded in 1978 with just US$500, is now one of Asia’s leading biotech companies. It has become one of the largest employers in the region, with an 11,000-plus workforce, and is a pioneer of Bangalore’s technology hub. Kiran’s name has become synonymous with the biotech industry in India, and she is recognized as a global thought leader, appearing on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list and Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list.
Science for the benefit of the society
Throughout Biocon’s growth, Mazumdar-Shaw has been driven by her ambition to create a business that would “leverage science for the benefit of society.”
The company has evolved from manufacturing pharmaceuticals such as statins and immunosuppressants to discovering, developing and producing biologics to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes. Her goal is “to develop affordable blockbuster drugs with the potential to benefit a billion patients.”
For example, Biocon is leading efforts to provide affordable insulin for patients around the world by producing rh-insulin at less than US$0.10 per day, a third of current prices, writes the jury. Mazumdar-Shaw has been leading Biocon’s corporate social responsibility programs in health care, education, science, startups, and civic and social issues. She is also the second Indian citizen to join the Giving Pledge global initiative and has received two of India’s highest civilian honors.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw’s can-do attitude and determination have been the company’s driving force, writes the jury. When the banks refused to lend her money, she developed a business model that would still enable her to grow.
“The greatest opportunities often arise at the toughest times.”
“It forced me to create a model that was based on revenues and profits, rather than venture capital,” she explains. That gave her the cash flow to fund the research and production of pharmaceutical drugs. “At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems,” she says. “The greatest opportunities often arise at the toughest times, and that’s been my experience throughout my entrepreneurial journey.”
Pär Svärdson – a national winner
The founder and CEO of Apotea, Pär Svärdson, represented Sweden in the international final.
Svärdson was just 16 when he started his first business, borrowing US$5,000 from his father to start Svärdson Management Capital. It would later become Adlibris, Sweden’s largest online bookstore, which he subsequently sold. He then used his expertise in e-commerce to expand a small online pharmacy with limited online stock, which he took over and renamed Apotea in 2012. Today, Apotea is the biggest online pharmacy in Sweden. Svärdson spotted the opportunity to grow Apotea after the deregulation of the pharmacy market in Sweden.
“When I started Apotea, there was no pure online pharmacy in the Swedish market,” he says. “I saw great potential in facilitating people’s everyday lives and sending medical products directly to the customer’s door.”
Apotea now has more than 650 employees, recently recruiting 100 more to deal with the huge demand for hand sanitizer, thermometers and pain relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic.