“MY ABIL­ITY TO FACE AND LEARN FROM FAIL­URE AND MOVE ON HAS HELPED ME A GREAT DEAL IN BE­ING SUC­CESS­FUL”

KI­RAN MAZUMDAR-SHAW, Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Bio­con, tells P. B. Jayaku­mar about the key lessons she has learnt in busi­ness life.

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The big­gest chal­lenge you faced in your ca­reer

Through­out my ca­reer, I have had to fight an un­ceas­ing bat­tle against this cli­mate of risk aver­sion in our coun­try. In­vestors in In­dia pre­fer pre­dictable, im­i­ta­tive busi­ness mod­els and me-too prod­ucts, where they have the vis­i­bil­ity of as­sured re­turns. But truly in­no­va­tive busi­ness mod­els find no tak­ers here. Real in­no­va­tion has an in­her­ent el­e­ment of high risk and In­di­ans are averse to it. So, you do not see peo­ple in In­dia in­vest­ing in real in­no­va­tions.

Your best teacher in busi­ness

Her­bert Wayne “Herb” Boyer, an iconic re­searcher and biotech en­tre­pre­neur who jump-started the biotech­nol­ogy in­dus­try by in­vent­ing re­com­bi­nant DNA tech­nol­ogy along with ge­neti­cist Stan­ley Co­hen. He went on to set up the pi­o­neer­ing biotech com­pany Ge­nen­tech with ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Bob Swan­son. Al­though Boyer and Swan­son faced scep­ti­cism, they pur­sued their re­search as they had a strong belief in their idea. Within a few years, Ge­nen­tech sci­en­tists be­gan mak­ing medicines by splic­ing genes into fast-grow­ing bac­te­ria that pro­duced ther­a­peu­tic pro­teins. Re­com­bi­nant Hu­man In­sulin was its first prod­uct, which was li­censed to Eli Lilly for com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion. Bio­con’s suc­cess with Re­com­bi­nant In­sulin as its first ther­a­peu­tic pro­tein, in­tro­duced in In­dia in 2004, makes a cu­ri­ous con­nec­tion be­tween the two com­pa­nies.

One man­age­ment les­son for young peo­ple

Fail­ure is bound to arise at many stages of your life. In my en­tre­pre­neur­ial jour­ney, my abil­ity to face and learn from fail­ure and move on has helped me a great deal in be­ing suc­cess­ful. Life is a jour­ney of con­quer­ing boul­ders as you climb to­wards the peak. Fail­ures pro­vide the ex­pe­ri­ence that no amount of suc­cess can. I of­ten say ‘fail­ure is tem­po­rary’ but ‘giv­ing up is per­ma­nent’. When you fail, learn from it in­stead of get­ting de­feated and giv­ing up per­ma­nently. Risk and fail­ure are in­trin­sic to busi­ness and those that can man­age th­ese well usu­ally suc­ceed.

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