Why he matters: As CEO of the Serum Institute of India, he’s become synonymous with the production of life-saving vaccines across the globe. We look beyond his flamboyant lifestyle to discover the man behind the medical mammoth.
Specially commissioned photos of the man, posed beside handsome horses, lavish homes and sinuous sportscars, may make it easy to dismiss Adar Poonawalla as a privileged heir. But the reality is far from it. Adar earned the moniker of the ‘Vaccine Prince’ the world over during the pandemic, and is today one of India’s most powerful men, trained under a similar dynamo, his father, Cyrus Poonawalla.
“Outspoken, honest to the core and speaks his mind,” Senior Poonawalla had once remarked about his son. The heir to a Rs 4,000-crore empire, Adar lives the fine life with his lovely wife, Natasha, but he has quite the serious job.
His flamboyant lifestyle aside, he leads the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, which was seen as a harbinger of good health during one of the worst months we’ve seen in recent times.
When Adar took over the baton at Serum from his father, he also acquired his management style, including a proclivity to micromanage. “We’re involved in everything! Nothing is too small for us to look into,” he had quipped during an interview. “As a family-run company, our decision-making is centralised. There’s less empowerment, so it’s a challenge to recruit senior management from outside. They fail to perform, fight with us and eventually resign.”
Born and bred in Pune and now a global citizen, Adar attended the city’s Bishop’s School, followed by St. Edmund’s School in Canterbury, before graduating from the University of Westminster and joining Serum in 2001. Since then, he has concentrated on growing the business internationally.
In fact, as much as 85 percent of the firm’s revenues are accrued from overseas activities. “I’ve learnt a lot of things from my father. The qualities I’d like my sons to imbibe are integrity and our love for doing good for the world in public health,” Adar said in an interview, when prodded about the traits he picked up from his father.
A stylish man, he is known for his love for vintage and luxurious cars, an obsession with horses and the derby, and a passion for collecting rare and international art.
His opulent lifestyle also includes family holidays around the world in yachts and private jets, at exotic destinations that would make for the perfect postcards.
While Natasha has relocated to London, where their sons Cyrus and Darius go to school, Adar shuttles between London and India. Their homes include a wondrous mansion in Mayfair, besides their Renaissance-inspired, 23-acre farmhouse in Pune and their Art Deco abode in Mumbai’s posh Breach Candy, which was the erstwhile home of the Wankaner royal family.
The epitome of a power couple, the Poonawallas are great hosts, known for their tasteful soirées. They are well-established for their charities that are focussed on education, healthcare, water, sanitation and environment, and are also often spotted hanging out with the biggest, most glamorous names in Bollywood.
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