Failure is temporary but giving up is permanent.

Former Chairperson of IIM Bangalore. Managing director of Biocon, a biotechnology company. Othmer gold medalist in 2014. One of top 50 women in business according to Forbes. One in the top 100 most powerful women. Padma Shri winner. Padma Bhushan awardee. These are just some of the many achievements of Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

In this issue, we feature an exclusive interview with Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw where she discusses various aspects of her career including how she overcame challenges and who had the most influence in her life. She also speaks out on what can be done to improve our educational system and about her vision for India and Biocon. In this interview which covers wide ranging topics, she also shares with us some childhood incidents, her fitness regime and what she would like to be if given another chance.

Indi: You have achieved so much in your life. Are you contented?

KMS: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.” These immortal lines of American poet Robert Frost sum up my answer to your question.

Indi: Whom or what do you attribute your success to? Or what motivates you?

KMS: I have been greatly inspired by my late father, Rasendra Mazumdar, who always encouraged me to take the road less travelled and taught me that I could achieve just as much if not more than any man.

As an entrepreneur, I have always found challenges exciting. Challenges, I believe, contain the seeds of opportunity, which in turn give birth to innovation and progress. When one is driven by the spirit of leadership, such challenges become milestones on the path to success.

Indi: Have you had any setback in your life? How did you overcome it?

KMS: I have faced setbacks and experienced failure at many stages of my life. However, my ability to learn from failure and move on has helped me a great deal in being successful. Failures provide the experience that no amount of success can. When you fail, learn from it instead of getting defeated and giving up permanently.

Indi: Today would you consider the setback as a boon in disguise?

KMS: I started out with the ambition to be a doctor, but strangely life took me on another path. Though I am not a medical doctor I have pursued a career that has helped me further the understanding of medical science. In fact, I feel my entrepreneurial journey has brought me to a platform from which I can address the medical needs of a global patient pool and touch so many more lives. Through Biocon, I am making a difference to the lives of millions of patients in over 100 countries by providing them effective, safe and affordable biotechnology-based drugs.

Indi: An incident about your school days that you relish?

KMS: My schooling at Bishop Cottons, Bangalore taught me how to think for myself, to excel in everything I do and to do things differently and creatively in order to make a difference. Once, my favourite teacher, Anne Warrior, got all of us to creatively spruce up a wilting garden patch into a designer cactus garden over a weekend to win our class “The garden patch of the year” award!  This team effort was one that brought creativity, resourcefulness and a winning mindset to the fore.

Indi: How important is the role of guide/coach in your life?

KMS: A good mentor is someone who inculcates in you the values that make you a winner in life. A good mentor is someone who shows us how to do things differently and creatively in order to make a difference. A good mentor is someone who inspires you to become a role model for others.

Indi: What do you think are the challenges faced by the children of today?

KMS: I feel children in India today are prisoners of an education system that is by and large outdated and irrelevant. Passing examinations is seen as the be-all and end-all of their academic pursuits, so much so that failure pushes many a promising young life towards an extreme end.

Most of our schools and undergraduate colleges don’t believe in curiosity-based learning, which is why they fail to nurture the spirit of enquiry and catalyze the process of innovation.

We need a system that incentivizes students to interpret a subject differently and encourages them to develop their own perspective and personality. We need a system that will shape a generation, which will focus on improving the lives of fellow citizens and enhancing India’s position in the world.

Indi: A tribute to your favourite teacher

KMS: Anne Warrior was not only an inspirational teacher, she was a friend, philosopher and guide. She taught me how to learn and think creatively and also instilled in me the values that have made me the person that I am today.

Indi: Favourite childhood prank

KMS: While playing hide-and-seek as a kid in the sprawling campus of United Breweries in Bangalore, where I grew up, I would often sneak into the cellars of the fermentation wing of the factory to hide from my brothers.

Indi: If you had an opportunity to start your life again, what path would you choose?

KMS: I would make the same choices. I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

Indi: If you had an opportunity to change one thing about our country, what would it be?

KMS: I would want every citizen in India to have access to healthcare.

Indi: What is your plan for the future?

KMS: My vision is to have Biocon’s research programs lead to the discovery of life-saving drugs that transform the approach to killer diseases like diabetes and cancer. I want to be able to deliver affordable blockbuster drugs with the potential to change the lives of billions of patients around the world.

Indi: If a child aspired to be you or follow in your footsteps, what would you advice?

KMS: Think big and do big. There are incredible opportunities out there today. You must channelize the innate leadership instinct that all of us possess and try to make a difference in your own lives as well as in the lives of others.

Indi: How do you keep fit?

KMS: Aerobics, yoga, swimming