Man In News

Yohan Poonawalla (Born 15 January 1972) is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Poonawalla Engineering Group viz; Intervalve Poonawalla Ltd, El-O- Matic India Pvt Ltd and the Chairman of Poonawalla Financials Pvt Ltd. He is a Director of the Poonawalla Stud Farms and Poonawalla Racing and Breeding.

Being born in an industrialist family, corporate nitty-gritty and fervour came naturally to him at a very young age. It dawned upon him early in life the aspects he had to focus on to strengthen the natural impulse of his business acumen. He advocates the saying “There is no school in the world that can match the exposure and experience you gain doing practical groundwork and all of us know that the tougher the conditions the better you are moulded”.

Mr Yohan Poonawalla with family.
Mr Yohan Poonawalla with family.

He is the son of Mr Zavaray Poonawalla who is the President of the Poonawalla Group. Mr Zavaray Poonawalla is the co-founder of the Serum Institute of India, which was founded in 1966. The family also owns one of Asia’s leading Stud Farms in India, exporting many champion horses who have won and created a benchmark in many countries such as the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, and Malaysia. The Poonawalla Stud Farms has been awarded the leading stud farm in the country several times. The Stud Farm is more of a passion for the family.

Horses are very close to their hearts and the entire family is deeply bonded over their love for horses. Yohan Poonawalla studied at The Bishops School in Pune and has done his master’s degree at Wadia College Pune and his MBA in the UK. He has diversified and grown the Engineering Group product Portfolios from Butterfly valves to Gate, Globe and Dual plate check valves and Scotch-yoke actuators for use in heavy industries such as refinery, petrochemical, cement and steel, paper and pulp, Pharma, paint and sugar segments with exports to over 46 countries.

The Engineering Group is committed to maximizing customer satisfaction by consistently improving the quality of the products, services and delivery. It strives for the growth of its clients, employees, society and all its associates with Passion, Perfection and Performance. The endeavour remains to exceed customer expectations in all brands and products offered.

Mr Poonawalla and his team continuously work towards growing the product range and their aim is to be a ‘One Stop Solution’ in the Valve Automation Industry. To achieve this vision, the team has strengthened the manufacturing and supplier base with self-certification. All products and manufacturing processes conform to international standards and have been qualified with numerous Indian and International certifications. Intervale Poonawalla has one of the widest ranges of industrial valves and has a major share in the Indian Industry segment.

Mr Yohan Poonawalla also heads the financial and property portfolio, which has wide investments in the commercial sector. Apart from being an illustrious industrialist, he is widely known as YZP amongst car enthusiasts and friends alike and is famous for his passion for automobiles.
Mr Yohan Poonawalla and his companies have received several Awards.

Best Enterprise Intervalve Poonawalla Ltd, from The European Business Assembly
Prestigious International Award. Asia Person of the year Category- Global Leadership, from India-UAE Business & Social Forum The World’s Greatest Brands & Leaders. Outstanding Achievement Award for Industrial Development, from The Indian Economic Development & Research Association. National Economic Development & Social Responsibilities. Global Achievers Award, from The Citizens Integration Peace Institution.

He holds the following other positions:
Member – National Horse Breeding Society of India.
Member – Advisory Board, OCEANTEX.
Permanent Member – National Advisory Board, CHEMTECH.

The Poonawalla Group supports several Corporate Social Responsibility activities such as providing gainful employment to the Poona Leprosy Committee since 1990 thus playing an important role in almost eradicating the disease which is in play to date, donating towards ‘Zavaray Poonawalla Cancer Building’ at the Ruby Hall Hospital, beautifying and maintaining ‘The Gool Poonawalla Garden’, sponsored and took active participation in the construction of the Soli Poonawalla Road in Hadapsar and promoting English medium education at the ‘Soli Poonawalla Memorial High School’

Yohan Poonawalla, the scion of the billionaire Poonawalla family of Pune, is known for his passion for vintage cars and horses. Not many know that there’s a sincere family man and a perseverant businessman behind the facade of a rich and famous Yohan Poonawalla. In an exclusive chat with Nation Next, Yohan Poonawalla speaks about his business philosophy, family values and the trials and tribulations of being rich and famous. Here’s all that you always wanted to know about him…

How would you describe being Yohan Poonawalla?

First off, I’m a family man. I’m proud to say that though I had a platform for the family business, I have not only sustained the same but have grown it too. While doing so, I learned that ethics in business are a must and there’s no substitute for hard work. Rest, I leave it for the others to decide. Let them reflect on my other personality traits of mine and conclude.

A common man is driven by the idea of acquiring wealth. What drives a rich man like you? 

As I said, I’ve been lucky to be born into a family like this! To grow and sustain wealth is important but how to grow and sustain wealth is more important. To be known as a respected businessman is more important than just amassing wealth. To me, perceptions do matter.

What would you say to a young Indian who idealises a wealthy you and wishes to acquire as much as you possess?

I would say, there’s no shortcut to making money. You’ve to work hard, be dedicated, set your goals, and do it ethically; and even if you don’t succeed, don’t do it the wrong way. My success mantra is getting into the nitty-gritty of everything, right down to the smallest details. I would suggest to youngsters: If you do something, do it the right way or don’t do it! Even if its organising a party, building a house, or putting up a factory – whatever you do, it should be perfect. Sometimes it may take a lot of time in doing things right but I like to do it that way only!

Among people at large, you are known more for your wealth than your businesses. How does it feel?

That’s why I asked you what the interview was about beforehand because nowadays, I tend not to give interviews just on my cars, horses etc. I have a passion for cars and horses but I would like to be known more for my businesses, rather than my wealth. In fact, beyond being a passion, stud farms are a serious business for us.

Is it the perfect marriage of passion and business that makes The Poonawalla Stud Farms the leader in the country in producing classic horses?  

I won’t start a new business based on my passion, but for long while, we’ve been passionate about horses, and it’s always been a business too. We also love our other businesses but I guess we love the horses a bit more. It’s such a regal animal! My grandfather late Soli A. Poonawalla started the stud farms in 1946; since then the passion and the business of horses run in the family. In fact, the stud farms’ land is virtually in the heart of the city, and it doesn’t make commercial sense to run a stud farm there. We need to shift it out.

Please tell us about your other businesses.

Apart from running stud farms, in 1966, my dad and uncle (Dr Cyrus Poonawalla) started the pharmaceuticals company – Serum Institute of India Ltd. – which is now one of the biggest pharma manufacturers in the country. Then in 1987, two engineering companies were started (Intervalve Poonawalla Ltd.) and El-O-Matic (India) Pvt. Ltd. One with Dutch technology and the other one is a joint venture with a Fortune 100 American company called Emerson. I am hands-on to run these two engineering companies, and my wife Michelle is now full-time helping me with the same. I’m very proud that I’m the first one in the family to have diversified into other businesses than our traditional ones. I was the first to go into hospitality and commercial real estate investments in Pune and Mumbai – the two geographies that I know well. Our luxury spa ‘Grayshott’ in the UK is doing well. It’s a wonderful property in Surrey, which is just on the outskirts of London.

Between the engineering business and the stud farms, what would you like to develop more?

I would make the engineering business widespread since horses are doing well as a traditional business of ours.

Due to your wealth and lifestyle, the curiosities run amuck among people. How do you deal with them?

In a position like mine, one has to deal with people’s curiosities calmly and coolly.  One can’t be offended. I wonder just being business entities, if we have to face inquisitiveness and rumours of this magnitude, what celebs like actors and cricketers must be going through! They are vehemently followed by a huge fan base of theirs. But when you’re looked upon by people and you’re in the public eye constantly, you can’t help being asked peculiar questions by the media and people at large.

Do you think while the common man wants to be wealthy, he also wants the wealthy to be apologetic about their wealth?

It depends… There may be a lot of people who see it that way but you can’t generalise.

What is your routine like?

On normal work days, I go to the office, come back, do a bit of gym in the evenings and spend the rest of the time with my children. I’m very particular about spending time with my kids as I feel it’s very important to be a part of their growing-up days. After growing up, they would get busy with their own things. I don’t want to miss out on these days of theirs. I take them out on holidays because that’s the time I get to spend the whole day with them. Today being a Sunday, I’m taking them along to Aamby Valley City for some car event. Like myself, my son likes vintage cars too, which is very rare for someone his age. It’s in his blood.

Talking about cars, Puneites say it’s a treat to watch when you’re out driving your classic Mercedes, Bentley or vintage Rolls Royce. Out of your enviable collection of vintage and classic cars, which one is your dearest?

The vintage car – Rolls Royce Phantom 3 – is my favourite. It’s a 1937 model and has a V12 engine (the only V12 engine they made in those days). The new Phantom is named and based on this car. Interestingly,   this car has a modified spitfire engine; it’s an aircraft engine. Rolls Royce, even today, makes aircraft engines. This car is very special to me! Of the classic ones, I prefer to drive the Lamborghini once in a while along with my son.

How and when did you realise you have a fascination for cars?

Ever since I was a child. I grew up looking at vintage cars, so at an age when young boys follow sports cars, I developed a passion for vintage cars. Now I enjoy my sports cars as well.

Would you like to be reborn as yourself?

Yeah! I would like to be reborn as myself, having the same wife and the same children!

Have you ever thought if you weren’t a wealthy man, what would you struggle for, and what would drive you?

I would have definitely liked to be an achiever under any circumstances. I don’t know what would that be but I’m sure I would be constantly driven to achieve something in life. My family had got what it’s got but I still have always been striving to take it to the next level. I would like my son and daughter to make our businesses grow, but only if they’re interested. I’ll allow them to do whatever they like. I won’t ever stop them from chasing their dreams.

Source: Nation Next.