Adar Poonawala

CEO of Serum Institute of India and Chairman of Poonawalla Fincorp


Adar Poonawalla, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Serum Institute of India (SII), leads the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by doses produced and sold annually, with a staggering output of 1.5 billion doses per year. Founded in 1966 by his father, Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, SII has grown under Adar's leadership to a point where, by the end of 2021, it was producing more than 3 billion doses of vaccines annually, including 1.5 billion COVID-19 vaccines.

Adar joined SII in 2001 after graduating from the University of Westminster in London. Initially, he focused on expanding the company's international market and ensuring new products were licensed and pre-qualified by the World Health Organization for supply to United Nations agencies such as UNICEF and PAHO. At that time, SII was exporting its products to 30 countries. By 2015, Adar had expanded the company's reach to over 140 countries, with 85% of its revenues coming from overseas markets.

Taking over as CEO in 2011, Adar has been instrumental in reducing vaccine prices to make them affordable for developing communities while driving innovation in new vaccines against preventable diseases. His mission to combat health inequality and make vaccines more accessible has significantly expanded SII's global reach, now supplying life-saving vaccines to over 170 countries. Under his tenure, SII has produced and distributed over 280 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 70 countries (as of June 2021), with production increasing monthly.

Adar has also played a pivotal role in SII's strategic expansions, including the acquisition of Bilthoven Biologicals, a Netherlands-based government vaccine manufacturing company, in 2012. He spearheaded the launch of SII's oral polio vaccine in 2014, which became a bestseller, and has plans to introduce vaccines for dengue, flu, and cervical cancer.

In addition to his role at SII, Adar is a dynamic leader in philanthropy and social responsibility. He and his wife Natasha founded the Villoo Poonawalla Charitable Foundation in 2012, focusing on education, healthcare, safe water, and environmental sanitation. 

The foundation operates eight schools educating over 10,000 children and a charitable hospital in Pune, where SII is based. It also addresses city waste management and provides clean drinking water at 30 locations.

Adar founded Poonawalla Fincorp, a digital non-banking financial company, in 2019, and was appointed chairman on 31 May 2021 after acquiring a 66% stake in the company. He has also been a former board member of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, contributing to global child vaccination efforts against infectious diseases.

Awards and Accomplishments

Awards and Accomplishments

Recognized for his contributions, Adar has received numerous accolades, including – 

  • Fortune’s Greatest Leaders (2021)
  • Economic Times Entrepreneur of the Year (2021)
  • Hurun National Icon of Philanthropy (2019)
  • Indian of the Year – CSR Category (2020)
  •  Forbes India Leadership Awards GenNext Entrepreneur (2018)
  • CNBC Asia’s Corporate Social Responsibility (2018)

In 2017, the Indian Prime Minister appointed him as Brand Ambassador for Swachh Bharat, a national campaign to improve waste management. 

Adar has also been honored with – 

  • GQ Magazine’s Philanthropist of the Year (2016)
  • Humanitarian Endeavour Award at the Hall of Fame Awards (2017)
  • Business Leader of the Year at the ET Edge Maharashtra Achievers Awards (2018)

He was included in Fortune magazine’s ’40 Under 40′ in healthcare (2020) and listed in Time 100 as one of the most influential people in the world (2021).

Why Adar Poonawala?

Adar Poonawalla is an exemplary leader in the global health and pharmaceutical industries, renowned for his transformative work as CEO of the Serum Institute of India. His visionary approach to making vaccines affordable and accessible worldwide has not only driven unprecedented growth for SII but also saved countless lives. As a speaker, Adar brings a wealth of knowledge on leadership, innovation, and corporate social responsibility. 

His inspiring journey and strategic insights into navigating global markets, digital transformation, and health equity make him an invaluable asset for any event focused on leadership, healthcare, and social impact.

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