Adar Poonawalla is an Indian billionaire CEO and owner of the world’s largest vaccine producing company (in terms of the number of doses produced and sold worldwide), Serum Institute of India, founded by his father, Cyrus Poonawalla, in 1966. The company also produced India’s first COVID-19 vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (known as Covishield in India), in collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
Adar Poonawalla was born on Wednesday, 14 January 1981 (age 40 years; as of 2021) in Pune, Maharashtra. He did his primary schooling from The Bishop’s School, Pune, and then went to London, when he was 10 years old, to complete the latter part of his formal education. He completed his schooling from St Edmund’s School in Canterbury, followed by a BA (honours) in Business Management from the University of Westminster in 2002. The Economic Times Recalling the time he spent at Westminster, Poonawalla said,
My memories at Westminster are of a nice learning environment and culture which taught me team building and interacting with peers, overall a great learning experience, for which I am always happy and grateful.”
After completing his graduation, Adar Poonawalla joined his family business of vaccines, and then took over the reins of Serum Institute of India as its CEO in 2011.
Height (approx): 5′ 5″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Ethnicity
Parents & Siblings
Adar Poonawalla is the only son of Padma Shri awardee Chairman and Managing Director of Serum Institute of India (SII), Cyrus Poonawalla. Adar’s mother, Villoo Poonawalla, passed away at the age of 67 in 2010.
Wife & Children
Adar Poonawalla is married to Natasha Poonawalla, a fashionista and the executive director of Serum Institute of India. The couple got married on Friday, 15 December 2006.
They together have two sons, Cyrus (born in 2009) and Darius (born in 2015).
After spending 10 years studying in the UK, Adar returned to India in 2002 and joined his father’s company, Serum Institute of India. After learning the nuances of the vaccine business, he took a seat on Serum Institute of India’s board of directors in 2005. At that time, the company was exporting vaccines to 35 countries outside India.
At that time we were very India-centric and our company was not really exporting to more than 30-40 countries. I thought that the opportunity for growth was there and I wanted to geographically diversify our portfolio and add vaccines and products, which I did every two-three years.”
In 2011, he took over the position of the CEO of Serum Institute of India. In 2017, Serum Institute of India became the largest vaccine producing company in the world in terms of the number of doses produced annually. The company produces more than 1.5 billion doses of a range of vaccines annually including vaccines for measles, polio, flu, and COVID-19. Ever since Adar took reins of Serum Institute by becoming its CEO in 2011, the company has flourished at a tremendous pace, spreading its wings of supply from nearly 35 countries in 2005 to more than 145 countries in 2020. According to Adar Poonawalla, 65 percent of children in the world receive at least one vaccine produced by their company.
On 31 May 2021, Magma Fincorp Limited, a Mumbai-based non-banking finance company, appointed Adar Poonawalla as the chairman of the company.
Adar took up the charity work after his mother’s (who was deeply involved in philanthropy) demise in 2010.
Villoo Poonawalla Foundation
In 2012, Adar Poonawalla started “Villoo Poonawalla Foundation” in memory of his late mother, Villoo Poonawalla. The foundation is operating with the objective of improving the lives of the unprivileged people in India, with a prime focus on providing education, healthcare, water, and sanitation facilities at a minimal cost. It runs eight schools educating more than 10,000 children, one hospital, and dozens of water treatment plants. Adar’s wife, Natasha Poonawalla, is the chairperson of the Villoo Poonawalla foundation.
Adar Poonawalla Clean City Initiative
In 2015, Adar Poonawalla launched “Adar Poonawalla Clean City” (APCC), an environmentally sustainable initiative working towards improving solid waste management and thus making the urban cities in India more livable. Adar started the initiative from Pune with a pledge of investing more than Rs. 100 crore from his personal wealth to clean the city. Apparently, the initiative is the first of its kind in India, where a private entity has come up to invest this big of an amount in improving the waste management of a city.
Many influential personalities from the country lauded Adar’s initiative, including Narendra Modi, who later nominated him as one of the brand ambassadors of the Indian government’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Initiative) in 2017.
Awards and Achievements
- In 2016, Mr. Poonawalla was featured in the GQ magazine’s elite list of 50 most influential young Indians.
- In 2016, he was awarded the Philanthropist of the year award.
- In 2017, he won the ‘Humanitarian Endeavour’ Award at the Hello Hall of Fame Awards.
- In 2017, he was conferred with the title of the Indian of the Year in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Business Category.
- In 2018, Adar Poonawalla was conferred with the “Business Leader of the Year” award at Maharashtra Achievers’ Awards 2018. The award is given to the achievers and the leaders from different fields who have made Maharashtra proud by achieving something special in their respective fields.
- The same year in 2018, he also received the “CNBC Asia’s Corporate Social Responsibility” award.
- In 2020, he was named in Fortune Magazine’s global ’40 under 40′ list.
- In 2020, he was one of the six persons to be named as Asians of the year by one of Singapore’s leading dailies The Straits Times for his effort in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 4 January 2021, Adar Poonawalla, in an interview with the NDTV, made an apparent jibe at Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin saying that only three COVID-19 vaccines in the world, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford-AstraZeneca (manufactured by Serum Institute), had passed the clinical efficacy test while the rest of the vaccines were “safe like water.”
In response to Adar Poonawalla’s remark, Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech, issued a statement in which he said,
We do 200 per cent honest clinical trials and yet we receive a backlash. If I am wrong, tell me. Some companies have branded me ‘water’. I want to deny that. We are scientists”
Later, on 5 January 2020, amid the rising controversy, both the companies came together and issued a joint statement to clear up the prior miscommunication, saying both the companies respect the great work carried out by each other in battling with COVID-19, and thus, put behind the miscommunication and misunderstanding caused earlier.
This should clarify any miscommunication. We are all united in the fight against this pandemic. https://t.co/oeII0YOXEH
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) January 5, 2021
Adar Poonawalla, who has a passion for speed, owns a fleet of more than 50 luxury and sports cars, including Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, Bentley Flying Spur, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe, Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta, Lamborghini Gallardo SE, Chevy Corvette, and Hummer (electric vehicle). He also owns a modified Batmobile based on a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. He transformed the S-class for his son Cyrus’s 6th birthday. The transformation job was done in China and took around six months to complete.
The Poonawalla family own properties in a number of location in India and abroad. Here’s a round-up of three prominent multi-crore properties owned by Poonawallas in Pune and Mumbai.
- First up is “Adar Abad Poonawalla House,” the official residence of Adar Poonawalla, located in Pune. The property, spread in an area of 22 acres, is built with distinctively European architecture and is a perfect blend of vintage and contemporary art.
- Another property owned by Poonawallas in Pune is 247 acres Poonawalla Stud Farmhouse, spread over an area of approximately 247 acres with a two-story holiday home built over a part of the farmhouse.
- The most recent property acquired by the Poonawalla family is a 2-acre Grade-III beach facing property called Lincoln House, located at Breach Candy road in South Mumbai. The property was once owned by the Maharaja of Wankaner and later bought by the US government for Rs. 18 lakh in 1957 to be utilised as a consulate house. The property was bought by Poonawalla in an auction in 2015 at an eye-popping price of Rs. 750 crore; however, the possession of the property is yet to be handed over to them. The Print
- Adar loves to watch movies, with his personal favourite being Gladiator (2000), directed by Ridley Scott. He catches up on the movies in his private home theatres.
- His favourite holiday destinations are located in France and Italy. He has been there for more than 50 times.
- Adar is passionate about horse racing.
- Adar, a speedster, also owns a Gulfstream G550, an aircraft that can take him anywhere in the world in less than thirteen hours.
- On 17 May 2021, through an open market transaction, Adar Poonawalla offloaded his entire stake in Panacea Biotec for Rs. 118 crores, and the shares were picked by Serum Institute of India (SII). According to BSE block deal data, Poonawalla sold 31,57,034 scrips he held in Panacea Biotec at a price of Rs. 373.85 per share, taking the total deal value to Rs. 118.02 crores. Mint
- In December 2023, Adar Poonawalla hit the headlines when he made a deal to purchase London’s most expensive property, Aberconway House, for approximately Rs. 1,444.4 crore. The mansion was said to be acquired by Serum Life Sciences Ltd., a British subsidiary of the Poonawalla family’s Serum Institute of India. The deal was reported to be the second-costliest in London for the year. India Today The Telegraph