Managing the future, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon Limited- IMT Hyderabad Convocation Speech

Managing the future

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon Limited- IMT Hyderabad Convocation Speech

We are living in the most exciting and best of times ever in terms of the potential we have to change the world with the help of technology. We are witnessing the birth of technologies that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. The scale, scope, and complexity of the transformation is unlikely to be like anything humankind has experienced before.

The First 3 Industrial Revolutions have seen the displacement and disruption of businesses by locomotives, electricity and computers. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway wherein technologies are converging to blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

Compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. 

If you compared the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 and 2018, you will realize that only a tenth of these once formidable and admired companies have endured the test of time. 

Take a look at the list of America’s 500 most valuable companies over the past decade. Eastman Kodak, National Semiconductor, Sprint, US Steel, Dell, and the New York Times have gone! They have been replaced by the likes of Facebook, Uber and Netflix. The combined market cap of Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook is estimated at $3.5 trillion which is larger than the Indian economy!

About half of the current S&P 500 are predicted to be replaced over the next 10 years! Such is the disruptive power of technology led new businesses. 

I believe the future will belong to a vast number of fast moving companies that are small, nimble and entrepreneurial. These companies will constantly evolve and reinvent themselves to adapt with the changing pace and face of new technologies. 

We today live in a world where creative disruption is radicalising the market place such that leadership is transient and innovation is king!

In this brave new world unleashed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I believe the economies that will benefit are the ones that support human creativity and innovation.

What separates the human mind from Artificial Intelligence is imagination and innovation. 

If you ask the question 'What is the similarity between Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?' The answer would be that these men could and can imagine the future.

Breakthrough Tools to Reimagine the Future

Technological advancements keep transforming our lives in ways we just cannot even imagine. Today, there are millions of people working as app developers, ride-sharing drivers, drone operators, and social media marketers, which are jobs that didn't exist and would have been difficult to even imagine ten years ago.

The next few decades will see cutting-edge technologies such as Cloud Computing, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Quantum Computing provide smart young people like you huge opportunities to usher in “disruptive innovation” that will shake up businesses and transform lives. These technologies will also create new employment opportunities.

Some people have expressed worries that AI will destroy jobs. However, history has proven that while new technology does indeed eliminate jobs, it also creates new and better jobs to replace them.


Data is quickly becoming 21st-century’s economic fuel, replacing oil as an essential resource for the global economy, and thereby the focus of intense struggle to control it!

Data Science, which allows us to make sense of Big Data, is helping us find relationships between distinct kinds of information, thus generating new insights, creating new knowledge and leading to breakthrough innovation. Big Data can be the most potent instrument for transformative social change the world has ever seen.

India is fast gaining global recognition for the quality of its data scientists who enable evidence based decision making. The ability of our data analysts has led to the emergence of decision sciences at the intersection of technology, business and maths thus creating a new man machine ecosystem.

The exponential growth in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is leading to a huge demand for highly skilled professionals. Over the last one year, the number of analytics jobs in India has almost doubled. As more data analytics projects get outsourced to India, due to a dearth of such skills across the world, we are likely to see a boom in this field in the years ahead.

Failure & Success

As students of management, you would have learned that failure is inherent to building success and am sure you have been coached on managing risk and failure.

In my life’s journey, my ability to face and learn from failure helped me a great deal. When I started off as a 25-year-old woman entrepreneur with no business experience and limited financial resources, I had to face huge credibility and perception challenges, as well as, failures. In those days, women were not perceived as good entrepreneurs and biotechnology was unheard of as an industry. The prevailing business ethos favoured low-risk ventures based on services and generic drugs and was averse to risk ridden, innovation-led businesses like biotechnology. I succeeded against these odds because I understood that all challenges can be surmounted with perseverance and ingenuity.

When you fail, learn from it instead of getting defeated and giving up permanently. My underlying belief is "Persevere till you succeed. Failure is temporary but giving up is permanent!"

Sense of Purpose

Great companies and great leaders are driven by a deep sense of purpose. Elon Musk is driven by a mission to reduce global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption thereby reducing the risk of human extinction!  Bill and Melinda Gates established their foundation on the belief that every life has equal value and have therefore focused their efforts to help all people lead healthy, productive lives by eradicating the world of infectious diseases, hunger and poverty.

My own company Biocon is on a mission to make a difference to global health by providing affordable access to life saving drugs for diabetes and cancer.

I have always believed that Blockbuster drugs are not about a billion dollars but about a billion patients.

I would urge all of you to believe in your goals and aspirations and attain them with a sense of purpose.

Success is an Endurance Race

Every one of us faces periods of fatigue, lack of job satisfaction and even serious doubts of whether it is worth pursuing one’s efforts. Endurance is the name of the game and those who endure come out stronger and more confident to rise to greater challenges and greater heights

Far too many young people are lured by the temptation to switch jobs to make an extra buck or to escape work related stress and data will tell you that these job hoppers never make meaningful impact as they fail to develop both experience and expertise. 

Overcome Obstacles

Every career path is fraught with obstacles but overcoming obstacles is a confidence building exercise.  My own entrepreneurial journey has been an obstacle race, which I have successfully overcome time and time again to build confidence, quell scepticism and drive leadership. This must also be your resolve as you step into your life’s journey.

In the words of Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, “Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, or work around it.”

Values and ethics

There will come a time when you will need to have long term, strategic goals. Your responsibilities will shift from being task and activity oriented to problem gauging and problem solving.  This will call for strategic thinking that will enable you to create enduring value for you and the organizations that you serve. This is what builds great companies and great leaders. Integral to this is an uncompromising code of values and ethics. 

As the saying goes: "Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do."

Today’s Employment Mantra is about Job Opportunity not Job Security

Every one of you is looking to get yourself employed, to find a job.  Some of you will find dream jobs in dream companies, some of you will be daring and join start-ups and some of you will even be gutsy enough to start your own companies and become entrepreneurs.

Today, the job market for young men and women is vast and varied. Perhaps the most disruptive change is that of a shift in the societal mind-set that no longer seeks job security but job opportunity.  

Start-Ups have revolutionized the job market for young people. In barely a decade, India has become the world's third-largest start up ecosystem, with 4 to 5 start-ups being born every day.  The Government, in its wisdom, has rightly come out with a policy for Start-Ups to make it that much easier for young enterprises to start, scale and endure.

By turning an entrepreneur, I have been able to create nearly 10,000 direct jobs and several thousands of indirect jobs in lieu of the one job that I was seeking!

I would therefore urge you to try and be a job creator, rather than a job seeker.

True Leaders Spot Opportunity in Challenges

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.

True leaders can come from any walk of life—they are visionaries with a sense of purpose, who persevere and have a passion for change. They know that leadership is not about control but about being able to inspire people with values and vision.

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. This will not only result in self-empowerment but also help society prosper.

Create Value for your Country

Today, India needs all of us - especially capable young people like you - to be responsible and address the myriad challenges our country faces: food security, health security, job security, energy security and environmental sustainability.

Remember, our country cannot aspire to economic greatness as long as India remains home to one-fourth of the world’s poor and more than one-third of all malnourished children.

So I would like to ask you to get involved and convert these challenges into opportunities that can help bring about transformational change in alleviating human suffering while creating wealth and prosperity for all.

As the leaders of tomorrow, I urge you to go out and pursue your career paths with a spirit of challenge and a deep sense of purpose.

Remember, the purposeful pursuit of your passion is the only thing that will ultimately bring fulfilment as you look back at the trajectory of your life. As you venture forth into the world today, I will leave you with one simple advice: ‘Don’t just follow your dreams, pursue them purposefully!’





Archana Chaudhary 3/9/2018 12:58:45 PM

Nice one. Thanks for this. She is an epitome of inspiration.

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