Adar Poonawalla is the 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 developed India’s first COVID-19 vaccine 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 level schooling from Pune’s The Bishop’s School 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 and then graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA (honours) in Business Management in 2002. 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 took over the reins of Serum Institute of India in 2011.
Family & Ethnicity
Adar was born into an affluent Parsi family.
Parents & Siblings
Adar Poonawalla is the only son of Padma Shri awardee Chairman and Managing Director of the 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 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 about the business, In 2005, he took the seat on the Serum Institute of India board of directors. At that stage, 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 the latest in the list is COVID-19 vaccine (first of its kind in India), which the company is manufacturing in partnership with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. 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.
Adar took up the charity work after her mother’s demise in 2010, who was deeply involved in philanthropy. In 2012, Adar Poonawalla started, “Villoo Poonawalla Foundation,” in memory of his late mother, Villoo Poonawalla. The foundation is operating with an objective of enhancing the lives of the unprivileged people, with a prime focus on improving education, healthcare, water and sanitation facilities. It runs 8 schools educating more than 10,000 children, 1 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 the likes of Narendra Modi, who later nominated him as one of the brand ambassadors’ of Indian government’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Initiative) in 2017.
Awards and Achievements
- In 2016, Mr. Poonawalla featured in the GQ magazine’s elite list of 50 most influential young Indians.
- In 2016, he was awarded as the Philanthropist of the year.
- In 2017, he won the ‘Humanitarian Endeavour’ Award at the Hello Hall Of Fame Awards.
- In 2017, he was conferred as 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’s global ’40 under 40′ list.
- In 2020, he was one of of the six persons to who were named as Asians of the year by Singapore’s leading daily, The Straits Times, for their 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, 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 that both companies respect the great work being carried out by each other in battling with COVID-19, and thus, put behind us 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 a 247 acres stud Poonawalla Stud Farmhouse, spread over an area of approximately 247 acres with a two-story holiday home built on it.
- 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 was later utilised by the US government as Consulate House. The property was bought by Poonawalla in 2015, at an eye-popping price of Rs. 750 crores; however, the possession of the property is yet to be handed over to them.
Adar Poonawalla’s net worth is not known; however, his father, Cyrus Poonawalla’s, net worth is estimated to be $11.5 million as per a Forbes India’s report in 2020.
- Adar is passionate about horse racing.
- 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, a speedster, also owns a Gulfstream G550, an aircraft that can take him anywhere in the world in less than thirteen hours.