Cyrus Poonawalla: Vaccine King of India

Megha Rani Megha Rani
Apr 5, 2021 5 min read
Cyrus Poonawalla: Vaccine King of India

Cyrus Poonawalla is an Indian businessman and Philanthropist who is the Chairman of Cyrus Poonawalla Group, which includes the Indian biotech company, Serum Institute of India. He is also known as "vaccine king of India", because his firm manufactures pediatric vaccines and contributes towards society by providing low-cost vaccines to the masses. As a Philanthropist, he supplied 100 thousand doses of measles vaccines for free vaccination in Ukraine in partnership with an Ukrainian businessman, Naum Koen. As of January 2021, he has an estimated net worth of $11.50 billion.

Cyrus Poonawalla- Biography

Name Cyrus S. Poonawalla
Born 1941
Hometown Pune, India
Age 80 (2021)
Nationality Indian
Education Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce
Profession Businessman, Philanthropist
Position Chairman of Poonawalla Group; Founder of Serum Institute of India
Net worth $11.50 billion (Jan 2021)
Spouse Villoo Poonawalla
Children Adar Poonawalla
Awards Padma Shri (2005)

Cyrus Poonawalla - Personal Life
Cyrus Poonawalla - Education
Cyrus Poonawalla - Professional Life
Cyrus Poonawalla - Business idea
Cyrus Poonawalla - Cyrus Poonawalla Group
Cyrus Poonawalla - Serum Institute of India
Cyrus Poonawalla - Poonawalla Stud Farms & Horse Racing
Cyrus Poonawalla - Honors & Awards


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Cyrus Poonawalla - Personal Life

Cyrus was born in a Parsi family and his father was a horse-breeder. The family had a business of horse racing and they owned the Poonawalla Stud Farms. He is married to Villoo Poonawalla, who died in 2010 due to cardiac arrest. The couple has a son named, Adar Poonawalla, who currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India.

Cyrus Poonawalla - Education

Cyrus completed his elementary education from Bishops School, Pune. He completed his graduation Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC) in 1966. He acquired a PhD in 1988 by Pune University for the thesis named "Improved Technology in the Manufacture of Specific Anti-toxins and its Socio-Economic Impact on the Society."

Cyrus Poonawalla - Professional Life

At age 20, Cyrus realized that his family business of horse racing had no future ahead. He then started experimenting with cars and built a $120 prototype sports car modeled on the D-type Jaguar along with a friend, however, they did not have enough capital to produce such cars on commercial basis.

He thus dropped the idea and thought of manufacturing cars for masses rather targeting the elite community of society. At that time, horses were donated to Haffkine Institute in Mumbai, a government owned firm that manufactured vaccines using horse serum.

Cyrus Poonawalla - Business idea

Cyrus noted the scope in the serum industry and decided to take upon the challenge of producing vaccines by extracting horse serum. He aimed at availing these vaccines and supplying it across the country at affordable prices.

He raised $12,000 along with his brother Zavaray by selling horses and requested their father to contribute the required capital. In 1966, they eventually established their venture on a 12 acre plot and started manufacturing vaccines.

Cyrus Poonawalla - Cyrus Poonawalla Group

Cyrus founded the Cyrus Poonawalla Group and serves as its Chairman. The biotech firm, Serum Institute of India is also founded by him and it is a portal of the Group. The Cyrus Poonawalla Group of companies deal with pharmaceuticals & biotechnology, finance, clean energy, hospitality & reality, and aviation. The company is headquartered in Pune, India.  

The group runs several companies across diverse sectors like, Poonawalla Finance, Bilthoven Biologicals, Poonawalla Aviation, Villoo Poonawalla Greenfield Farms, Poonawalla Clean Energy, Poonawalla Hospitality and Real Estate. The company also runs philanthropic firms like, Villoo Poonawalla Foundation, Adar Poonawalla Clean City Initiative, and Tennis Academy.

Cyrus Poonawalla - Serum Institute of India

Cyrus founded Serum Institute of India (SII) in 1966 with an aim to manufacture life-saving immuno-biologicals in India. The company is recognized as India's No. 1 biotechnology firm with the world's largest vaccine manufactured, produced and sold globally.

The company launched its first therapeutic anti-tetanus serum within two years of the establishment. Gradually, they started manufacturing DTP vaccine, Measles vaccine. SII is presently India's leading Biotech company and is currently exporting vaccines to more than 140 countries across the world.

His son, Adar started serving as the CEO of SII from 2011 and he expanded the business with new licensed and pre-qualified products by the World Health Organization (WHO) to supply it to the United Nations Agencies.


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Cyrus Poonawalla - Poonawalla Stud Farms & Horse Racing

The Poonawalla Stud Farms was owned by his late-father and he used to ran house racing and breeding industry. The farm is currently handled by Cyrus and his brother. It is one of the leading stud farm in the country.

He solely represented India at the International Federation of Horse Racing authorities and was a member of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) for more than 10 years. He held various positions in the horse racing field like, Chairman, Turf Authorities of India, Vice Chairman of Asian Racing Federation, and Royal Western India Turf Club etc.


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Cyrus Poonawalla - Honors & Awards

  • He received the fourth-highest civilian award, Padma Shri by the President of India in 2005.
  • On 20 November 2007, he received the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year 2007" under the category of Healthcare and Life Sciences.
  • On 5 February 2015, he received the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year 2014".
  • On 3 June 2018, he was conferred with the Honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by The University of Massachusetts Medical School.
  • On 26 June 2019, he was conferred with the Honorary Doctorate of Science by the University of Oxford.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Who is the CEO of Serum Institute of India?

Adar Poonawalla, currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India.

What is Cyrus Poonawalla net worth?

As of January 2021, Cyrus Poonawalla has an estimated net worth of $11.50 billion.

Who is Naum Koen?

Naum Koen is an UAE-based Israeli-Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist who is the founder and CEO of NY Koen Group.

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