|from the editor-in-chief|
Indians have always been entrepreneurs: we have all heard about businesses growing from father to son or the rags-to-riches story in conventional industry. But recently there has been a shift in the nature of Indian entrepreneurship. It has come to stand for something that is out of the box and globally oriented. It began with the infotech revolution a decade ago. Now all the signs point to another industry joining this new wave of Indian enterprise. Venture capitalists and economic forecasters believe biotechnology is India's next big thing, its new it.
A branch of science where biology meets engineering, biotech in India is a Rs 1,800 crore industry, growing at the rate of 25 per cent. In the next five years it could raise $5 billion (Rs 23,000 crore) in revenues and create one million jobs. It is not just about the numbers. Biotech-in the simplest sense is the use of genes, enzymes, cells and tissues for man's needs-has been instrumental in the development of cheaper drugs. India is a global superpower in biotech which has given the country its richest woman, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She is head of Biocon, the country's largest biotech firm which floated a successful public issue in March. She began her company in a rented garage.
Today she pushes the boundaries of the industry. Like the infotech giants did in software outsourcing, the global biotech industry is looking at India to perform its backroom operations efficiently. The complex call-centre of this industry in India is a laboratory where firms conduct basic R&D into drugs and vaccines, undertake clinical trials of new cures, develop diagnostic tools and further technologies like stem-cell research, which is limited in other countries. Thanks to our numbers and the standard of our scientific education, the industry's demand is met by a qualified workforce numbering thousands.
The feeling of deja vu today is overpowering-these are like the early days of it, when it was regarded as a minor activity about an incomprehensible science restricted to a few nerds in Bangalore. Well, we know where those nerds are today. Our biotech barons could soon join them.
Our cover story explores India's booming biotech industry, where applied science meets high finance. We tell the story through its leaders and their dreams, beginning with Mazumdar-Shaw. Assistant Editor Supriya Bezbaruah who has written the cover story is well-placed to understand and explain as she is a PhD in molecular biology. She says, "Used with care, biotechnology could be the dream science which makes big profits and saves lives as well." Any business that keeps accountants and altruists happy must be a good idea.