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healthcare | IST

'Execution' the hardest part, says SII's Adar Poonawalla on India's vaccine century

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As India hits 100 crore jabs, CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan spoke to Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute about this milestone and what has been the hardest part in achieving this milestone.

As India hits 100 crore COVID-19 vaccination milestone, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, spoke about the milestone and what has been the hardest part in achieving this.
In conversation with CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan, Poonawalla said, "Everything I could write a book, you have been with me on this journey ever since you started asking me why have you tied up, when are you going to get the vaccine, what stage is the trials in? Handling the public scrutiny and accountability which I am happy to do but that has been one of the challenges along with trying to get permissions to execute this sort of project on such a scale that even I have never had to do. I think it is a combination of all these things.
He added that execution was the hardest part. "Anyone can find the right partner, anyone can answer questions on a news channel, but executing in detail from the capex to the raw materials to the human resources, I think, was perhaps the most challenging, even for a company of our size. We have learned a lot of things going forward, which will help us for future pandemics as well. So, it was a combination of all of this.”
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Serum Institute had taken advances from other countries early on because when the export restrictions came in, they had no choice but to return at least half of that money. Poonawalla said, “There were a number of countries, I don't want to name them, but whether it is in our neighbourhood, and also some in Latin America, Africa, it was to the tune of around $200 million that we have had to return. Over the last six months or so, I think we have returned about $150 million. But we are now very well-funded because of the government, we got an advance of 30 percent from the government to handle our finances. In April-May, we were a little tight, and we had to borrow some money from banks. But again, that was only for a very short-term period, where then the Government of India stepped in and supported us, which I am very grateful for, and we work very well hand in hand to achieve all this is close coordination."
On IPO, Poonawalla said, "We have been talking to some funds off the record. But again, we are looking for partners who would invest in the long term with us as strategic partners. So it is mainly sovereign wealth funds and others, not so much private equity funds."