Datuk (Dr) Vinod Sekhar, aged 53, is currently Chairman and Chief Executive of the PETRA Group, Chairman of Vinod Sekhar Trust and Founder of the Vinod Sekhar Foundation. He has led an illustrious life as an industrialist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. A colourful personality, Datuk Vinod is a vocal leader who places great emphasis on nation building and is a strong advocate of social capitalism -where businesses are run profitably while doing the right thing for all stakeholders, ensuring sustainable wealth creation.
Datuk Dr Vinod is the youngest child of Tan Sri B.C Sekhar and Puan Sri Sukumari Nair. His late father was the former Rubber Research Institute chairman, affectionately known as Mr Natural Rubber, who revolutionised the nation’s rubber and palm oil industries. As a rubber research scientist and the first Malaysian director of the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, B.C Sekhar brought the Malaysian rubber industry on to the international stage. Datuk Vinod who has been deeply inspired by his father’s ideals and values, regards him as his biggest influence in his life.
Datuk Vinod’s late mother was the founding deputy president of the National Council of Women’s Organisations. She was a fierce advocate for the rights and welfare of children, including fighting for the rights of children born out of wedlock. This also includes petitioning the government into granting them the same proprietary and inheritance rights as other children of the respective parents. She was the recipient of Anugerah Tokoh Wanita Award in conjunction with the National Women’s Day celebrations from the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012.
Datuk Vinod is married to Datin Dr Winy Sekhar, whose background is in healthcare and research having worked in the sector for 12 years as a doctor and researcher, and continuing at a management level with Green Rubber, a sustainable technology company that aims to solves one of the world’s most pressing environmental hazards – waste rubber tyres.
Datin Dr Winy is also actively involved in philanthropic efforts as the Chairperson of the Vinod Sekhar Foundation, that has donated more than RM15 million to help various communities in need during the Covd-19 pandemic.
Datin Dr Winy is also the Executive Director of “Breaking Down the Issues”, an online video series that explores socioeconomic issues from different perspectives.
The couple are blessed with two daughters, Petra and Tara.
Datuk Vinod embarked on his first business at the age of 21 where he started the Vincent Siefer Clothing Co which sold college embossed shirts to students at American universities. At the time, he was still a student in the United States studying molecular biology.
In 1990, Datuk Vinod formed and became the CEO of the STI Group – businesses include the world’s smallest optic engine, the first circular abrasive discs, Southeast Asia’s first commercial Internet company, first virtual reality companies in the US, among others.
Datuk Vinod has many firsts to his credit.
He was the first Malaysian to be part of a joint venture to produce a Disney movie, Tarzan: The Epic Adventure at Disney MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida. He was the first Malaysian to venture into the former Soviet Union after its breakup and was a part of the privatisation of the world’s second largest petrochemical plant, Nizhnekampsk Neftekhin. He was also the first Southeast Asian to own both Formula 2000 and Formula 3 Championship motorsports teams
After the Asian Financial crisis, in 1997, his company STI merged with other international interests and PETRA Group was formed, named after Datuk Vinod’s eldest daughter.
PETRA Group is a technology conglomerate responsible for several global technology developments related to Elastomer recycling (Green Rubber), deproteinization, HIV and cancer treatment programs, innovative financial software, biophotonics, biofuels, affordable engineered modular homes, films, live entertainment and software development.
Datuk Vinod has been actively involved in the arts and entertainment industry. Datuk Vinod debuted as an actor and playwright in 1999 with his “In The Mind’s Eye” which was produced with success in the US, UK and Malaysia. He also hosted Malaysia’s first English language talk show on television on Metrovision (now Channel 8). He has also jointly won several New York Festival Awards for his cutting-edge advertising campaigns. In 2015 the film Datuk Vinod produced in India, Liars Dice, was the sole Indian nomination for Best Foreign Picture category at the Academy Awards (Oscars). His other productions include the award-winning play he wrote called “In the Mind’s Eye”, and multiple award-winning Asian American film called “Hundred Percent” filmed in Los Angeles.
Both his parents, Tan Sri B.C Sekhar and Puan Sri Sukumari Nair were instrumental in charting Datuk Vinod’s personal journey and character, instilling in him the values of doing good and giving back to the society.
The concept of giving back which was indoctrinated in him since young steered him to form the Sitavani Foundation. Besides the Vinod Sekhar Foundation, he is also the Chairman of the PETRA Foundation (which he founded and which plays a role in the lives of over 12,000 children globally), the Sekhar Foundation, the Pelita Harapan (Lantern of Hope) for terminally ill children and the Co-Chairman of the Innocent Child Appeal Fund Board for abused children.
In 1999, Datuk Vinod had set up an orphanage in Columbia called the Petra-Valentina House.
He also funded the 2007 Black Ball in London which was hosted by his friend singer/songwriter Alicia Keys to raise money for her charity Keep a child alive.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vinod Sekhar Foundation contributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and test kits for medical front liners and provided food and medical aid for the low-income group. Datuk Vinod also funded a special Malindo Air charter flight to bring home 40 Malaysians who were stranded in Kerala, India, during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order.
To-date, the Vinod Sekhar Foundation has donated more than RM15 million to support the most vulnerable communities including the indigenous, disabled, old folks, children, refugees, and hardcore poor during the pandemic. This includes a RM7 million mobile hospital donated to the Malaysian Armed Forces to provide healthcare services to rural communities.
AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
Education has always been a topic of strong interest to Datuk Vinod. In his 20s, he organised the Global Education conference in Kuala Lumpur where principals from 30 top schools met and discussed on bridging the different educational curricula. For that initiative called the “Sekhar Initiative” Datuk Vinod in 1991 was made the first and youngest Asian fellow of Kappa Delta Pi, a US-based international Honors Society for Education.
For his contribution to society and the nation the 10th King of Malaysia, Tuanku Ja’afar ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman conferred on him a “Datukship” on the occasion of His Majesty’s’ 71st birthday. Datuk Vinod was 26 years old and one the youngest in the nation’s history to be so honoured.
In 2003, he was named by World Economic Forum in the top 3 of its 40 “New Asian Leaders”. In 2008, he won the corporate leader award when Grant Thornton named him the Malaysian Corporate Leader of the Year.
In 2008, Datuk Vinod became the first Asian to receive the prestigious Global Green Award from Global Green USA for Green Rubber. The award for the company’s rubber recycling technology. Datuk Vinod was also named ‘Global Visionary Leader 2015’ by the American Leadership Development Association and Leaders International.
While still in his 20s, Datuk Vinod founded the Malaysiana Muda movement, the first non-partisan multiracial national youth organisation in the country which was created to develop unity among Malaysian youth. He felt that polarization was getting out of hand and that something had to be done to keep the fabric that makes up Malaysia together. Malaysiana Muda soon became one of the largest non-partisan, multi racial youth organisations in the country. It hosted Malaysia’s first ever modern day open political debate between the DAP MP Kua Kia Soong and BN MP Shahrir Samad
Datuk Vinod has presented a variety of papers at and participated in many international conferences. This includes the International Human Rights Conference in Brussels, the first Malaysian International Youth Conference for Unity in Kuala Lumpur, the Asia Europe Young Leaders Conference in Ireland, the New Asian Leaders Retreat in Seoul, Korea which was a programme of the World Economic Forum, and the WEF’s Davos Annual meeting. He was the Chair of the first New Asian Leaders–Emerging Arab Leaders Summit in Langkawi, where he hosted his friend King Abdullah II of Jordan along with 200 Asian and Arab business leaders. He has been a speaker at multiple Forbes Global CEO Conferences and Horasis Global Meetings.
He was also named by Forbes as the 16th richest man in Malaysia for two consecutive years, in 2006 and 2007.
Datuk Vinod is also the Honorary Consul General of St. Vincent & the Grenadines to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
In 2009, the Harvard Business Review published a case study on Datuk Vinod, PETRA and Green Rubber – a rare privilege accorded to a Malaysian.
He has received several other awards including: the Global Indian Award presented by the Minister for Overseas Indians in Delhi; Global Indian Origin Magazine’s 50 Most Influential Business Leaders of Indian Origin in the world, the Outstanding Global Entrepreneur by the SME Association, and The Societe Award from the Asia Pacific Brand Foundation. The Chambers of the GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) presented him with a leadership award for Technology and Social Capitalism, the NRI Institute in India conferred on him the Pravasi Divas award.
Datuk Vinod was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Capitalism in 2018. He was also conferred the Darjah Cemerlang Seri Melaka, which carries the title ‘Datuk Wira’ when he was 52. Despite receiving many honours and awards, being conferred the Datuk Wira title was very special to Datuk Vinod as Melaka was the birthplace of his mother.
In the year 2021, Datuk Vinod was a named Person of the Year by Asia One Magazine. This award acknowledges Datuk Vinod’s dedication to social capitalism and his efforts in bringing positive changes in peoples’ lives and impacting communities. He is the first Malaysian to be so honoured by AsiaOne for this award.
He plays golf, tennis and squash and speaks 5 languages. He has a black belt in judo and is a huge fan of Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, rugby and cricket. He has over 320 Disney ties.
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