Cyrus PoonawallaThe chairman of the prestigious Poonawalla Group Published On: Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Views 20222


About Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla – the chairman of the prestigious Poonawalla Group was born in Pune. He is blessed with a son from his late wife Mrs. Villoo Poonawalla (died at the age of 67 in June 2010) named Adar Poonawalla – Executive Director (Operations) at the Serum Institute of India.

Dr. Poonawalla is a person who has always had a vision of creating an atmosphere where high quality vaccines do not remain as a mere luxury for children in India or the world and are offered at inexpensive prices.

And its impact is so much that international agencies have collaborated with him in his noble cause of developing vaccines against Meningococcal A, H1N1 Influenza, Rotavirus and other diseases.

At 73, Dr. Poonawalla with a net worth of $6.2 Billion is listed as the 10th richest person in India & 286th richest person in the world by Forbes Magazine.

Since the completion of his graduation in 1966 from the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, University of Pune; he joined his family business of horse racing and breeding called the “Poonawalla Stud Farms” which was initially started by his late father and is now managed by him and his younger brother Zavaray.

During his days; Poonawalla stud farms was so famous that he went on to become the Vice Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation.

And not only that, but he also held an honored position of a chairman at various Horse racing fields that included Turf Authorities of India, Royal Western India Turf Club, Stud Book Authority of India and Pattern Races Committee.

Moving on; Dr. Poonawalla also has a passion for collecting fleet of luxury & sports cars – 58 to be precise, helicopters, jets & custom-built limousines and owns some of the best in the world. Some of his collections include Ferrari F-430, Rolls Royce, Cessna 560XL Citation Excel jet, Bell 407 helicopter and his recent purchase was a new Falcon 900EX business jet.

Presently, Dr. Poonawalla’s privately held “Serum Institute of India” with backing from WHO (World Health Organization) is developing a vaccine for Ebola on fast-track basis.

Along with that; the man has also been in news for his latest bid of $900 million for London’s Grosvenor House Hotel which is owned by the Sahara Group, his stakes in an upcoming Ritz-Carlton in Pune and a Bulgari hotel in the Maldives.


In 2005, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla was presented with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In the same year, the then President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam also presented him with Padma Shri award for his involvement in the field of medicine.

In 1988, Dr. Poonawalla was presented with a Ph.D. by the Pune University for his thesis entitled “Improved Technology in the manufacture of specific Anti-toxins and its socio-economic impact on the Society”.

Dr. Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India got ascribed to export vaccines from India by World Health Organization (WHO) in 1994 and also began providing high quality vaccines to agencies related to the U.N. like UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and PAHO (Pan American Health Organization).

The International Council for Business Promotion has recognized Dr. Poonawalla for his outstanding accomplishments and involvement in the field of operation for promoting and maintaining quality and standard of products through innovative strategies.

Dr. Poonawalla has also received both Sabin Humanitarian Award and the Sabin Corporate Philanthropy Award.

Dr. Poonawalla is the first Indian to receive the award for “Excellence in Inter-American Public Health” by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF).

Poonawalla Group

The Poonawalla group which is currently chaired by Dr. Cyrus himself is a combination of 5 different companies which got initiated with their age-old family business Poonawalla stud farms followed by the Serum Institute of India Ltd., Intervalve India Ltd., EL-O-MATIC INDIA Pvt. Ltd. & lastly the Grayshott hotel. The group is collectively managed by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla along with Zavaray, Adar & Yohan.

Below mentioned is a brief about all their five companies: –

Poonawalla Stud Farms

Late Soli A. Poonawalla established the Poonawalla Stud Farms as the Poona Stud Farm in 1946 with approximately a dozen mares and one stallion, Fitz Clarence (GB).

The farm has two separate units – the youngstock section located at Hadapsar and the breeding section located at Theur which are about 10 kms and 24 kms from Pune, respectively.

Currently, the stud farm holds approximately 140 broodmares and 3 stallions – Arazan, Ace and the latest addition St. James’s Palace Stakes winner Excellent Art. And majorly all the yearlings produced every year are sold through a private sale.

Since the commencement of awards 17 years ago; the stud farm has been considered as the leading stud farm in India and has received 12 “Champion Breeders’ Awards”.

Apart from that; the farm has bred 341 Classic winners to date which includes winners of 9 Indian Derbies and 68 Indian Classics and is also the highest stakes earning establishment in the country with over INR 1 million.

Serum Institute of India Ltd

SIIL which started in 1966 is India’s top biotech company and is listed in the top-five largest makers of vaccines in world which manufactures highly specialized life saving vaccines using cutting edge genetic and cell based technologies, antisera and other medical specialties with more than 1.2 billion doses annually.

SIIL contributes to more than 90% of Dr. Poonawalla’s wealth and reported a 40% rise in annual revenues to $600 million.

Vaccines produced by SIIL are being used by approximately 140 countries across the globe and are certified by the World Health Organization, Geneva; saving millions of lives throughout the world.

It is also the No. 1 producer of Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines in the world.

In India SIIL does not hold much competition apart from — Panacea Biotec, Bharat Biotec, Biological E and Shanta Biotechnics (now part of Sanofi). Whereas, its overseas competitors include Biopharm of Indonesia and a few players from Latin America.

TRIVIA: – As founding promoters, Zavaray and family hold a nominal 5% in SIIL.

Intervalve India Ltd.

Started in 1987; Intervalve an ISO 9001 certified company makes the widest range of Butterfly, Gate, Ball, Globe, Dual Plate & Lift Check valves.

To provide the highest of quality and to stay at par with the international standards; Intervalve maintains a high standard of design and accuracy.

It holds a prestigious position by being one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of India and also exports to countries like UK, USA, Germany, South East Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.


The Poonawalla Group of Engineering Companies has played an extensive and profound role in helping the Indian process industry grow widely. Also, it is only due to their realization that an automatic valve control which would ensure safe and effective performance is of acute need; gave birth to EL-O-MATIC!

And because of the beginning of EL-O-MATIC INDIA Pvt. Ltd. in 1989; the Indian process industry got international quality Pneumatic Actuators and Valve Automation Systems for valve control. These play a very crucial role in the manufacturing process.

EL-O-Matic, with its quality products that guarantee half a million cycles of trouble free operations has always remain the first choice of process industries and OEMs in India.

Some of its clients include Asian Paints, BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre), Bharat Petroleum, GAIL India limited, ESSAR, Larsen & Toubro, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Reliance Industries Limited, TATA Chemicals Limited, Emerson, etc!

Grayshott Health Spa

Due to Mr. Yohan Poonawalla, ‘The Poonawalla Group’ has spread its wings into the hospitality business as well; by acquiring a stake a UK-based hotel.

Grayshott is a luxury spa at Surrey, just one-hour from London. It has 47 acres of gardens, woods & sweeping lawns bordering 700 acres of National Trust land which is preserved for its innate beauty.

Currently, Grayshott is going through a widespread renovation program for the Spa, leisure areas and guest rooms, to make sure that it sustains the reputation of being UK’s leading Health Spa.

Alongwith the multiple natural remedies, beauty treatments and the fitness courses that it provides, the Spa offers a golf course, couple of indoor Tennis Courts, indoor and outdoor Swimming Pools, Cinema and a Lecture Theatre.

ESTABLISHMENT OF “Serum Institute of India”

Dr. Poonawalla along with his school friend began his career at the age of 20 by first testing waters with cars. But soon after they built a $120 prototype sports car modeled on the D-type Jaguar, they realized that producing it on a commercial basis would require more money than they had and hence abandoned the idea.

Later, he decided to target the masses than the classes and hence a conversation with a vet diverted him into vaccines.

Poonawalla decided to take up the challenge of extracting the serum from horses himself and producing cheaper vaccines.

So without any delay; he along with his brother Zavaray raised $12,000 selling horses, convinced their father to put up the rest and in 1966, Dr. Poonawalla set up the SIIL on a 12-acre lot.

As they had no background; they hired 10 doctors and scientists from the government-owned Haffkine Institute of India in Mumbai. And within a span of two years Serum Institute of India launched its first therapeutic anti-tetanus serum.

Soon the company won contracts to supply state governments and hospitals and their sales started getting better.

From there onwards there was no looking back for them and the chain of events that took place was as follows:

  • In 1974, they made the DTP vaccine to protect children from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
  • In 1981, an anti-snake-venom serum for snakebites was launched.
  • In 1989, the production of Measles Vaccine M-Vac began and within a year SIIL became India’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
  • India became self-sufficient for Tetanus, Diphtheria and Whooping Cough vaccines; because of SIIL.
  • By 1998, SIIL began selling these vaccines to over a 100 countries.
  • And by the year 2000, 1 out of every 2 children in the world has been vaccinated by a vaccine of SIIL.
  • In 2013, Prince Charles’s keenness to know about the production of these inexpensive but high quality vaccines forced him to make a private visit to SIIL.

Dr. Poonawalla is a man who wanted to make a difference in the society and wanted to make sure that these inexpensive life-saving drugs and vaccines that he is making, fills the shortage in the country and protects every child globally. As mentioned in his biography, Dr. Poonawalla’s vision was “Health for all by 2000 AD”.

And today, 80% of SIIL’s sales are to UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization as well as immunization programs in India, German, Africa and 140 countries around the world.


Although, the company hasn’t faced much of challenges in the past but with the rise in the competition Serum institute of India does face big challenges in the near future.

And the major reasons which could affect the company massively are its over-dependence on public-private funded healthcare agencies. Reportedly, more than 50% of its revenues come from UNICEF and PAHO.

Now any such kind of supplies requires pre-qualification from the World Health Organization and the regular audits at manufacturing outlets, the UN body conducts are extremely strict and the minutest of discrepancy will lead to cancellation of orders and disqualification.

The best example for this is; Indian vaccine makers like Bharat, Shantha and Panacea who have had to face disqualification by WHO in the past.

Other than that, what poses a grave threat to SIIL are the Chinese firms and global players who are competent to offer vaccines at a very low price. Also because, World Health Organization has passed China’s drug safety authority and has said that it meets the international standards for vaccine regulation.

As we write; the solution to all such potential challenges has already begun its initiation and quite frankly is pretty foolproof too!

Firstly, SIIL has gained a reputation in the market, so unless they screw up badly (which is unlikely the case), any obstacle wouldn’t affect them so much.

And on the other hand; the over-dependency on the aforementioned organizations is being balanced by increasing the supply to individual companies.

To add to that; the Poonawalla group as a whole is expanding its genres (as mentioned above) to reduce the dependency on one particular thing too.


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