Focusing On…Dr Vibin Joseph
Prior to speaking at WYN’s JumpStart session in August 2022, the executive director and CEO of BiOZEEN, a biotechnology company in India, talks to Su Aziz about his first steps as an entrepreneur and his advice to young entrepreneurs.
Dr Vibin Joseph has achieved much more than most 36-year-olds. His career has been eventful, if not extraordinary. An incident where a teacher was upset by the high rate of child mortality from preventable diseases during his student days at Imperial College London, sparked his desire to ensure safe and effective immunisation and make vaccines affordable for all.
Today, the mechanical engineer graduate and father of one drives the biotechnology company based in India, BiOZEEN, to success as its executive director and CEO. The company has successfully kept its focus on producing affordable vaccine. In fact, one out of three children globally is immunised with vaccines produced in BiOZEEN systems. Dr Vibin has been looked upon as a leader of tomorrow and have spoken on prestigious platforms such as The One Young World Summit in 2014, where they discussed global issues and find solutions to the challenges.
Here, we had a quick chat with him about his entrepreneurial experience before he speaks at WYN’s inaugural JumpStart online workshop for startups and young entrepreneurs on 2 August 2022.
Where are you at today?
There has been successes, lots of stress, lots of learning and several opportunities to create a purpose for people. Burning the midnight oil is the norm for me, but knowing the positive impact of our work motivates me, and the team, to work harder. Of course, plenty of satisfaction knowing that so many people in the world are living healthier because of the work we do.
What was your first experience as an entrepreneur?
It was BiOZEEN and I was 24 years old. I’ve been with the company for 12 years. Now, BiOZEEN enables five countries produce seven different COVID-19 vaccines. Almost 1.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines are produced using our technology. We partner with three out of the five biggest pharmaceutical companies to make biologicals. With a footprint in 21 major countries in every inhabited continent, we’ve made some good progress in serving humanity. The mission goes on with greater determination than ever to make a healthier world.
What kind of assistance and support did you get as a stepping stone to start a venture?
We initially bootstrapped, which means ‘starting a company with only personal savings, including borrowed or invested funds from family or friends, as well as income from initial sales’. Then subsequently made a business plan to gather resources and raise finance. I grew up learning from my father’s day-to-day business challenges that was a subject of daily discussion during dinner.
Why is technology important in building a business?
When you build a business around technology, it makes it more sustainable. In the digital world that we all live, technology will allow us to scale faster and be a force multiplier. Also, in this hyper competitive world, technology can constrain the threat of new entrants to hopefully grant you some breathing time to reach a certain critical mass.
Have you ever failed as an entrepreneur before? What did you do to bounce back?
I believe there are no failures but only learnings in entrepreneurship. Like all early-stage entrepreneurs there have been umpteen occasions when the very viability was a question mark. Bouncing back was more like in the words of Paulo Coelho the author, ‘When you really, really want something, the entire universe conspires to support you in that mission.’ There was experimentation, trial and error scenarios and not to mention, sleepless nights.
What’s your thought on the role startups play in an economy and rebuilding an economy?
Without doubt, startup ecosystems have a positive effect on the economy. They generate jobs, upskill local talent pools, increase GDP through better utilisation of capital and increase standards of living. As most startups serve to either increase efficiencies incrementally or innovate disruptively there will be positive cascading effects on all sections of the society.
What would be three advice you’d give to young entrepreneurs?
- Determine that you indeed have entrepreneurial blood! This means that you will have a purpose that you breathe, sleep and live for. To meet that passion, you’ll put your blood, sweat and tears into the mission. Entrepreneurship will be about sacrificing comforts and traversing through tough roads. Your persistence in finding the solution should attract attention and motivate more people.
- Every failure should be an inspiration to try harder the next time. It should make you more determined. At the same time, think of the worst that can happen. If you and your families are comfortable with that worst case scenario, keep moving while being aware that there’s always a way out.
- The most important trait for an entrepreneur is to espouse a duty of care. You should be empathetic, considerate, genuine, truly love people and care for the world around you. Remember, your most important role is that of a facilitator. The greatest impacts are created by teams passionate about your purpose. So be patient, believe in yourself and your team and be the last to enjoy.
Finally, why should budding entrepreneurs register for WYN’s JUMPSTART programme this August?
It is ideas that should serve as oxygen for an entrepreneur. You can accelerate translating these ideas into innovations with excellent mentorship, discussions and workshops. Peer bonding and networking can inspire success.
Register for WYN’s JumpStart programme which starts on 2 August 2022. It consists of six classes over a period of four weeks.
Read about what another WYN JumpStart speaker, Faeez Fadhlillah, has to say on the halal tourism industry today.