Cyrus Poonawalla Biography

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Cyrus Poonawalla Factsheet

Cyrus Poonawalla
Name Cyrus Poonawalla
Age 70
Hometown Pune, India
Occupation Chairman, Poonawalla Group, Founder of Serum Institute of India
Fortune Inherited and Growing
Source Biotech Company named Serum Institute of India
Marital Status Married , 1 child
Net worth $6.6 billions

About Cyrus Poonawalla

Cyrus Poonawalla is the chairperson of the Poonawalla Group, which includes Serum Institute of India which is one of India's top Biotech Company and one of the world’s cheapest vaccine producing company. Forbes Magazine's Richest Billionaire List in 2015 ranked Dr. Poonawalla as as India's 11th richest person and the 208th richest person worldwide. He is a prominent figure in India in the field of horse racing. Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla has contributed tremendously, both as the Chairperson of the Royal Western India Turf Club and as breeder of classic race horses and has received every possible top national and international award for the same.

Cyrus Poonawalla's Personal Life

Cyrus Poonawalla was born in a family whose ancient business was horse racing and they owned Poonawalla Stud Farms. He did his schooling from Bishops School, Pune and completed his graduation from Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC) in 1966. He was awarded a PhD in 1988 by the Pune University for his thesis entitled as “Improved Technology in the Manufacture of Specific Anti-toxins and its Socio-Economic Impact on the Society”. Dr Poonawalla is married to Late Villoo Poonawalla. His wife died on 8th June 2010 due to a massive cardiac arrest. She is survived by her husband, son Adar who is the Executive Director (Operations) at the Serum Institute, Adar's wife Natasha, and a grandson..

Beginning of Dr Poonawalla's Career

By the age of 20 Dr. Poonawalla realized that horse racing had no future in India. So he experimented with cars. He along with his friend built a $120 prototype sports car modeled on the D-type Jaguar. But producing such cars on commercial basis would require huge capital than they had. So Dr. Poonawalla relinquished that idea, and realized that making car for the masses is a better choice than targeting just the elite community of society. During that time horses were donated to government owned Haffkine Institute in Mumbai, which made vaccines using horse serum.

Dr Poonawalla observed the scope in the serum industry. He realized that he can take upon this challenge of producing vaccines extracting horse serum and supplying it throughout the country at affordable prices, satisfying the demand for vaccines in the country. He with his brother Zavaray raised $12,000 by selling horses and convinced their father to put up the rest. They set up their venture in 1966 on a 12-acre lot and started producing vaccines.

Business Journey of Cyrus Poonawalla

  • 1996-Dr. Poonawalla with his brother Zavary founded Serum Institue of India which launched its first therapeutic anti-tetanus serum within just two years and started with the production of the anti tetanus vaccines.
  • 1974-They began producing DTP vaccine, which protects children from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and then introduced an anti-snake venom serum for snake bites.
  • 1989-They started with the production of the Measles Vaccine M-VAC and in a year Serum Institute became the nation's largest vaccine manufacturer.
  • 1994-Cyrus Poonawalla's Serum Institute was commissioned by the World Health Organization to export vaccines from India and began supplying high quality vaccines to U.N. Agencies such as PAHO (Pan American Health Organisation) and UNICEF.
  • 1998-By 1998 Serum Institute was supplying vaccines to over a 100 countries.
  • 2000-By 2000 one out of every two children was vaccinated by vaccines of Serum Institute of India.
Serum Institute Of India has over the years emerged as India's leading Biotech company and presently is exporting vaccines to more than 140countries around the world.

Dr. Poonawalla's Horse Racing links

Dr. Poonawalla has strong links with India’s horse racing and breeding industry through the family’s ancient Poonawalla Stud Farms, started by his late father and now run by him and his younger brother Zavaray. Today, Poonawalla Stud Farms stands as the Leading Stud Farm in the country.

He was the sole representative of India at the International Federation of Horse racing Authorities and was a member of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF) for more than ten years. He was also elected as the Vice Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and also held various esteemed posts in the Horse racing field including Chairman, Turf Authorities of India, and Royal Western India Turf Club etc. He has received every possible top national and international award for horse racing.

Dr. Poonawalla's contribution to the society

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla has not only contributed in providing low cost vaccines to the masses who otherwise would not be protected against deadly diseases such as measles, diptheria etc. but has also contributed immensely to the society in the following ways :
  • Contribution in the field of education, for example establishment of Soli Poonawalla Memorial High School in Hadapsar ,“Dr.Cyrus Poonawalla Conference Hall” at Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Pune.
  • Beautification of the City by building Parks and Gardens for example the Gool Poonawalla Park in Pune etc.
  • He is also an active associate of Executive Council Member of the Poona District Leprosy Committee, which is a Public Charitable Trust.
  • Gives donations to poor individuals who are suffering from life-threatening diseases.
  • Participated in Confederation of Indian Industries’ Program of “Zero Load Shedding” by Captive Power Generation by Private Companies making life of citizens of Pune better.
  • Arranging Camps with Rotary International for free rubella immunization of girls from slum areas.

Awards won by Cyrus Poonawalla

In the area of Bio-technology

  • Received Gold Award from the British Medical Association for the film “Snakebite” in 1987.
  • Honored with “Man of the Year – Mother India International Gold Award” by NRI Institute, New Delhi, on 31st January 1991.
  • Dr. Poonawalla received “Rajat Kumar National Award” on 6th May 1992 for the best Education/Motivational/Instructional film entitled “The Triumph".
  • Awarded with the “Pune’s Pride Award” in 1998 for excellence in the Corporate World.
  • “Excellence in Inter-American Public Health” award was given by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) to Dr. Poonawalla's for his outstanding contribution to eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in America.
  • Presented with “Biospectrum Person of the year 2004” award on 10th December 2004.
  • Dr. Poonawalla was honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by honorable Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh on the ceremony of the Diamond Jubilee of Briham Maharashtra College of Commerce on 18th March 2005.
  • Awarded with “Padama shree” from of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, in 2005.
  • Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla's- Serum Institute, was awarded with “No. 1 Biotech Company of the Year” for four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009.
  • Bestowed with “Business Leader of the Year Award for Biotech 2007” on 8th February 2007.

  • He was honored with “Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2007” award in the field of Health Care and Life Sciences on 20th November 2007.
  • Honored with “Outstanding Contribution Award” in developing the pharmacy profession in India on 13th December 2002.

In the area of horse racing

  • Dr. Poonawalla was honored with “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his enormous contributions to horse racing and breeding, on 5th October, 2009 at the International Horse racing Conference at Paris, France.
  • Mr. Surender Reddy, Chairman, Hyderabad Race Club presented “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla on the occasion of the 47th running of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, on 25th October, 2009.
Last Updated on June 01, 2015