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Lessons on Life and Business

Interview with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon

She is the only self made female Indian Billionaire and signatory of 'Giving Pledge'

Q1 What is the most valuable career advice you can give to people just starting out?

Pursue a career, not a job. Careers are about building experience and expertise. Jobs are about carrying out tasks and instructions.

Q2 What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Disruptive technologies and business models that are challenging and changing the status quo.

Q3 How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?

By walking the talk and leading by example.

Q4 Where do the great ideas come from in your organization? Do you encourage junior members to be creative and share business ideas with senior management?

Good ideas can come from any part of the organization. We encourage innovation across the board and any employee can post a suggestion on BIONET which is a company-wide internet portal. We also award prizes for great ideas upon implementation.

Q5 Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

I have had several mentors and people who inspire me. Mr. Vaghul, Chairman ICICI who backed me when I needed it the most. Dr. Mashelkar, who inspired me and continues to inspire me with his out of box vision. Dr. Bala Manian, a fellow Board member and a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, who is my sounding board and brain storming buddy. Dr. Devi Shetty, too inspires me with his far sighted understanding of the role of technology in delivering healthcare. Nandan and Rohini Nilekani are also people I draw inspiration from in terms of their philanthropy and their technology led innovative societal platforms. Other than that, I am energized by startups and science and people who show thought leadership in innovation.

Q6 Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. How did you solve the problem?

I believe in prioritization when it comes to making choices about my work and my personal life. This, I believe, provides me with the equilibrium that I want.

Q7 Have you made unpopular decisions like firing employees and reducing compensation levels? What do you do to keep employee motivation enact after such actions?

I have never hesitated to fire employees on matters that deal with compromising integrity. It is always easy to motivate the rest of the people when such decisions are about adhering to core values.

Q8 As leaders do you create work environments that are more competitive or collaborative in nature?

I encourage collaboration as much as possible. I discourage competition as it stems from insecurity. To me performance is about giving it your best and I believe that sets a very positi9ve culture rather than having a culture of ‘healthy competition’ which, I find, always leads to discontentment and political discord.

Q9 How do you get buy in from senior management and board on your business ideas?

Through brainstorming discussions and interactive town halls.

Q10 How to increase employee productivity? Do you invest in their wellbeing?

Through
a number of recreational activities and celebrating successes. 

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