Adar Poonawalla: The Vaccine Prince Of India

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Adar Poonawalla is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – Serum Institute Of India. The company was originally established by his father Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966, who is popularly referred to as the ‘vaccine king’ of the world.

The coronavirus vaccination program was launched in India in January. The Drugs Controller General of India had sanctioned Covishield of Serum Institute of India and Covaxin for use in cases of emergency. The Serum Institute of India is producing the vaccine Covishield for India. Adar Poonawalla has been in the news after DCGI’s approval.


Born in January 1981, Adar completed his school education from The Bishop’s School (Pune) and St Edmund’s School, Canterbury. After that, he completed his bachelor’s degree in business from the University Of Westminster. In an interview, he admits that he was not very fond of attending college and decided against pursuing higher education. He returned home from the UK at age 21. “ If my father could make it just with a master’s degree, so can I” he said.  Right after finishing up his graduation in 2001, he joined the SII. Subsequently in the year 2011, he became the CEO of the company.


  1. In the year 2012, he performed a pivotal role in the acquisition of a Netherlands-based vaccine manufacturing company. 
  2.  In the year 2014, he initiated and launched serum institutes oral polio vaccine which ended up becoming a bestseller for the company. This aimed at improving the global shortage of polio vaccines at that time.
  3. He also decided to expand the product portfolio to include cervical cancer, dengue, and flu vaccines as well. 
  4. Adar Poonawalla concentrated on his company’s international market by exporting its products to around 35 countries. His focus was on getting pre-qualified by the WHO for getting authorized to supply vaccines to United Nations Agencies including UNICEF and PAHO. As of 2015, he has succored the company in exporting its products to over 140 countries. Today, the company’s 85% revenues come from the international supply.
  5. He hosted Prince Charles of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall during a private visit they made to Serum Institute’s manufacturing facility in India.
  6.  Listed as one of the 50 most influential young Indians by the GQ magazine, he was awarded as the ‘Philanthropist of the year’ by the same.
  7. In the year 2011, he established the Villoo zxccv9fPoonawalla Foundation In 2011, he founded the Villoo Poonawalla Foundation, in memory of his late mother Mrs. Villoo Poonawalla. Today the foundation encompasses 1 hospital, 6 schools, 25 water plants, all at different locations. It also features around 250 trucks & machinery that collects and processes waste in and around the city of Pune. His goal is to help address the issues that exist in India, and globally, in the areas of- Healthcare, Education, Water, Sanitation, and the Environment.


Lately, SII was under fire for having exported vaccines at the cost of  Indians who are experiencing a shortage.  The company had exported around 200mn doses even after receiving EUA, 2 months after the US pharma companies. Looking at total doses produced and delivered, they rank top 3 in the world.

He cleared up the accusations by stating that when vaccine production began in January 2021, the covid cases in the country were at an all-time low and there were other countries in dire need of the vaccines with the outbreak killing ruthlessly. At such a time, a decision was taken to help provide adequate vaccines to those countries. 

He also stated that currently the company is working at a breakneck pace and has scaled up its manufacturing process keeping India as a priority.

Adar Poonawalla: covishield
Image Credits: Business Today


“ Everything Falls On My Shoulders” reported Adar to The Times. He claims to have received threatening calls from the most powerful people in the country asking him for supplies of Covishield the Oxford/AstraZeneca that SII is manufacturing.

These threats have forced him to fly off to the UK along with his wife and kids. He stated that the aggression and entitlement that people have been subjecting him to is irrational and unjustified. He is scared for his family and fears being attacked. Another reason for going to Britain, he said, was to expand his business and manufacturing units outside of India. The company had started exporting to over 68 countries as India seemed to be out of the worst situation in January 2021. 

On charges of whether or not he was profiteering out of the vaccine business, he responded by saying “let history be the judge of it”. He further added that the covid vaccine would be the cheapest vaccine available in the world. There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days,” he remarked-, when asked if Britain would become one of the production bases for the country outside of India.

He stated in the interview;

“We’re really gasping for all the help we can get, I don’t think even God could have forecasted that it was going to get this bad”


Serum Institute of India unloaded his entire stake in Panacea Biotec equivalent to 5.15 percent shareholding of the firm at Rupees 118 crore, via an open market transaction. As per BSE block deal data, Poonawalla put on sale 31,57,034 scrips that he owned in the firm at the price of Rupees 373.85 per share, making the total deal value Rupees 118.02 crore.

The shares were collected by SII at the same price, via a different transaction. As per the quarterly shareholding data of March 2021, both Poonawalla and SII were public shareholders in the firm and owned 5.15 percent and 4.98 percent stakes, respectively. Shares of Panacea Biotec ceased at  ₹384.9 apiece which was 1.16 percent higher over the previous finish.


  1. The Poonawalla’s main residence is in Pune, but they happen to own a house in Mumbai as well. Lincoln House, as it is called, is located in South Bombay and is considered the city’s most expensive heritage property. It is owned by Cyrus Poonawalla and is 50,000 square feet in size. According to Mid-Day, the family bought the house for a whopping Rs 750 crore in 2015.
  2. The family owns many vintage cars, one of them is a Phantom Series 1 Rolls-Royce. Adar Poonawalla got an Airbus A320 converted into a luxury office space. Its remodeling cost him around $1 million. 
  3. The Poonawallas house in Pune called the Adar Abad Poonawalla House, has been described in a Forbes cover story, as a luxurious abode that is accessorized with rare paintings and has stunning artifacts of European architecture.
  4.  Adar Poonawalla owns a Mercedes S350 that looks like a Batmobile. Pune Mirror reported that the car is a revamped Mercedes S350, modified by adding wings and a hood by Mumbai-based Executive ModCar Trendz (EMT).


1)In 2016, Adar was awarded Philanthropist of the year by GQ magazine.

2)In 2017, he accepted the Humanitarian Endeavour Award In Hall of Fame Awards 2017. Also, he was awarded Indian of the Year in CSR Business Category on CNN-NEWS 18

3)In 2018, the ET Edge Maharashtra Achievers Awards of Business Leader was presented to Adar Poonawalla by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. In the same year, he further received CNBC Asia’s award for Corporate Social Responsibility.

4) Adar was listed in a “Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40” category in the healthcare section.

5)In March 2021, Adar was awarded as the Entrepreneur of the Year by Economic Times for excessive contribution in battling Covid-19 by successfully providing lump sum quantities of Covishield in India and globally.


Read More on how healthcare has stood on the frontline with Covid-19


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