Poonawalla to target growth-stage firms with ₹1,000 cr fund


MUMBAI : Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of Serum Institute of India, has sought regulatory approval to establish the Poonawalla Vision Fund to invest in growth-stage companies from its corpus of 1,000 crore contributed by his family, two people with knowledge of the development said.

An application to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) was made on 29 September for registration as a category-II alternative investment fund (AIF), one of the two people said, requesting anonymity. “The application is under process.”

Sebi defines category II as AIFs which do not undertake leverage or borrowing other than to meet day-to-day operational requirements.

These investment vehicles are pooled together from high net-worth individuals (HNIs) and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to invest in unlisted companies.

These can be through private equity, debt funds, real estate funds or distressed funds, among others.

“This will be 1,000 crore of the family’s capital, to begin with,” the second person said, adding that “the firm might look at raising from external investors at a later stage”.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Poonawalla Group declined to comment. 

In the past, the Poonawalla family office and Adar Poonawalla, in his personal capacity, have invested in companies such as Wellness Forever, Mylab, U Gro Capital, Svasti Microfinance and Wakau Interactive.

“As an HNI, they do not get to invest in IPO-bound companies and have other limitations while investing in unlisted companies and hence they will launch a Cat-II fund,” the first person said. 

The AIF will be funded initially by Adar Poonawalla in his personal capacity. “They might look at moving his previous deals to the fund for better management,” the second person said, also requesting anonymity. 

The fund will be sector agnostic and invest in growth-stage unlisted companies across sectors such as green energy, retail, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and wellness. 

Wipro founder Azim Premji’s Premji Invest, Aditya Birla PE, Dabur’s Burman family’s JV with Golden State Capital called Burman GSC, and Mariwala family are among other prolific AIFs that invest in companies. 

Domestic institutional investors are increasingly taking bigger bets on the India growth story. Institutional investors and family offices are backing early-stage and growth-stage funds by increasing the capital allocation in the last 2-3 years, in what could be an indication of greater risk appetite among this asset class. Not only has the type of investments broadened, but fund sizes have also been inching up. 

With a valuation of 2.19 trillion, Adar Poonawala-helmed Serum Institute tops the Burgundy Private Hurun India 500 top 10 list of unlisted companies.

Founded in 1966 by his father, Cyrus Poonawalla, it is the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume and the manufacturer of the Covishield brand of anti-covid vaccine. 

Ranked 22nd overall, Serum Institute gained 36,300 crore in value last year, backed by strong demand for its vaccines in India and the pole position it took in furthering the country’s vaccine diplomacy worldwide. 

With a net profit of 11,116 crore in fiscal year 2022, it is ranked 17th among the most profitable companies in the Hurun list. It is also the topmost bootstrapped company of 2022. 

Last week, Poonawalla Fincorp sold its housing finance unit to TPG Inc. for 3,900 crore.

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