As a traditionally risk-averse nation, India has rarely been at the forefront of innovation. Indian companies have mostly imitated others and became very good at it.
As you become more successful, the gender barrier disappears. The credibility challenges you have during your growing up years starts disappearing when you start demonstrating success.
I am very concerned about the fact that India as a country does not have a national health system, and I am determined to try and influence the government to really build a national health system for the country.
I do serve on various boards and I’m very honest and frank, obviously. I am a very forthright person and I do, sort of, share my candid views on anything.
I faced a number of challenges whilst I built Biocon. Initially, I had credibility challenges where I couldn’t get banks to fund me; I couldn’t recruit people to work for a woman boss. Even in the businesses where I had to procure raw materials, they didn’t want to deal with women.
I guess I was very fortunate; I had a very very, lets put it this way, I had very wonderful upbringing and a childhood where my parents, of course, exposed us to many cultural aspects, not only of India but other parts of the world.
I hate the title of being called ‘the richest woman in India,’ but it’s the recognition that this was the value that I had created as a woman entrepreneur, and that makes me very, very proud.
I have a great team who has helped me build Biocon, I was very fortunate to be able to share my vision with a group of people who really were as excited about challenges as I was.
I think, in terms of corporate philosophy, I’ve always believed that you’ve got to treat people in a very very egalitarian manner in the sense I like to treat people on a one-to-one basis. And I like people to take on a lot of responsibilities because I think with a sense of responsibility also comes a sense of purpose.
I want to be remembered as someone who put India on the scientific map of the world in terms of large innovation. I want to be remembered for making a difference to global healthcare. And I want to be remembered as someone who did make a difference to social economic development in India.
I’ve had many failures in terms of technological… business… and even research failures. I really believe that entrepreneurship is about being able to face failure, manage failure and succeed after failing.
If you think about brewing, it is biotechnology. And I would say that I was a technologist at heart. So whether I… fermented beer or whether I fermented enzymes, the base technology was the same.
Indian business women like Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochhar, Naina Lal Kidwai, Shikha Sharma, Swati Piramal, Anu Agha, Swati Piramal, Sulajja Firodia Motwani and Zia Mody have put India on the global firmament.
It was a chance encounter with a biotech entrepreneur from Ireland that got me started as an entrepreneur in India, because I partnered this Irish company in setting up India’s first biotech company.
My father was a brew master. He was the one who I was very close to, he influenced me in many many ways including my pursuing a career as a brew master.
My legacy is going to be in affordable health care. I am willing to invest in developing that model and the policies around it.
My passion for innovation and my interest in the ‘business of science’ has seen Biocon commercialize many innovative platforms and products.
One of my objectives when I started Biocon was to make sure that I create a company for women scientists to pursue a vocation.
The brewing industry is a very, very male dominated industry. It’s a male bastion.
Unfortunately, our stock is somehow not well understood by the markets. The market compares us with generic companies. We need to look at Biocon as a bellwether stock. A stock that is differentiated, a stock that is focused on R&D, and a very, very strong balance sheet with huge value drivers at the end of it.
What really got me focused on cancer was when my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and even though she was a well-to-do person, I found that her treatment costs were crippling.
When I started Biocon in 1978, the obstacles I needed to navigate were manifold – ranging from infrastructural hurdles to issues related to my credibility as a business woman. With no access to venture capital, money was scarce and high-cost, debt-based capital was all I had.
You have to build a culture of philanthropy. In a country like India, we need to be sensitive and caring about the poorer, more disadvantaged section of our country.