Datuk (Dr) Vinod Sekhar, aged 54, 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, 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.
Vinod has become an activist for what he calls “simple principles of a civilized society” where all businessmen must involve themselves in their own society’s positive development and has been a victim of both political and corporate attacks on himself both fabricated and defamatory, for his refusal to stop speaking out for reform. He is regarded as one of the small handful of senior business leaders and Forbes listed figure to publicly advocate for change and transparency.
Although he has close friendships on all sides of the political divide in Malaysia, Vinod is often subjected to negative and fake news campaigns to discredit him due to his close friendship with the Leader of the Opposition, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who shares similar views on Malaysia’s reform agenda. However, despite the continuous attacks against him, Vinod remains committed and steadfast in advocating for change and is a strong supporter of a mindset reform in the Malaysian political landscape.
He continues to speak out for the nation’s transformation to stop the racial polarization of Malaysian society and to create a platform for open debate. He has also established the Good Capitalism Forum to debate and promote the idea of Social Capitalism globally.
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.
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 Covid-19 pandemic.
The couple are blessed with two daughters, Petra and Tara.
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, 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.
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.
Vinod has been actively involved in the arts and entertainment industry. 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 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.
After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, STI merged with Vinod’s other international interests and the PETRA Group was created. PETRA, named after Vinod’s eldest daughter, was initially responsible for several global technology developments related to Elastomer recycling (Green Rubber), deproteinization, HIV and cancer treatment programs, innovative financial software, biophotonics, and biofuels.
Today, PETRA Group has grown exponentially and is now a diverse global group of businesses involved in the areas of sustainable technologies, modular building construction, (monorail) transit systems, food agriculture, infrastructure and engineering, media and entertainment, lifestyle, research and philanthropy.
Globally, Vinod is transforming the rubber industry with Green Rubber, that deals with one of the world’s environmental hazards – waste rubber tyres. With over 1.3 billion tyres discarded annually, Green Rubber is the sustainable answer. PETRA Eco-Build, the largest modular building company in the Asia-Pacific outside China, builds modular homes and buildings that are affordable, versatile and are of the highest quality using proprietary technologies that are environmentally sound.
In everything that he does, Vinod believes strongly in social capitalism, meaning enterprises are run as profitable ventures while doing the right thing for employees, customers, society and the environment, ensuring sustainable wealth creation and equitable income generation. Most importantly, all the companies under PETRA Group in one way or another contribute towards wealth creation and bettering lives of the communities that they operate in.
Both his parents, Tan Sri B.C Sekhar and Puan Sri Sukumari Nair were instrumental in charting 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. He was 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, 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 lowincome group. 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
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. Vinod was 26 years old and one the youngest in the nation’s history to be so honoured.
Vinod has received numerous recognitions, including:
– 10 Most Inspiring Business Leaders by The Inner Review Magazine in 2022
– Person of the Year by Asia One Magazine in 2021
– Global Leadership Lifetime Achievement in Social Capitalism in 2018
– The Vinod Sekhar Incubation Centre (VSIC) at Nottingham University, Malaysia in 2016
– Global Visionary Leader of the Year by the American Leadership Development Association and
Leaders International in 2015
– Community Leadership Award by Global Organization for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) in 2010
– Green Leadership and Social Capitalism at the 5th Middle East Business Leadership Award in 2014
– Leadership Excellence in Green Technology and Innovation to Green Rubber c/o Petra Group in 2014
– Top 3 of the 40 “New Asian Leaders” by World Economic Forum
– Global Indian Origin Magazine’s 50 Most Influential Business Leaders of Indian Origin
– Outstanding Global Entrepreneur by the SME Association
– The Societe Award from the Asia Pacific Brand Foundation
– The Chambers of the GCC’s (Gulf Cooperative Council) leadership award for Technology and Social Capitalism
– Pravasi Divas award by the NRI Institute in India
– Malaysian Corporate Leader of the Year by Grant Thornton in 2008
– The first Asian to receive the prestigious Global Green Award from Global Green USA for Green Rubber in 2008
– Honorary Doctorate for Business Innovation, Lim Kok Wing University, 2007
– One of the top 40 “New Asian Leaders” by World Economic Forum in 2003
– Awarded the Key to the city of Armenia by the Mayor, Columbia, 1999 – Decorated with the medal of “Plan Padrino” by the First Lady of Columbia in his contribution towards the education of underprivileged students, 1999
– Made the first and youngest Asian fellow of Kappa Delta Pi, a US-based international Honors Society for Education in 1991
– “The Point of Excellence” award by Kappa Delta Pi, 1991
– Named by Forbes as the 16th richest man in Malaysia for two consecutive years, in 2007 and 2008.
– The Harvard Business Review published a case study on Vinod, PETRA and Green Rubber in 2009, a rare privilege accorded to a Malaysian.
Under Vinod’s stewardship, PETRA Group was conferred the Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards (AREA) 2022 under the Social Empowerment category by leading NGO Enterprise Asia. PETRA Group was also recognised by Singapore Business Review at the Malaysia Technology Excellence Awards in 2022 for its innovation and transformative technologies to build sustainable businesses that apply the concept of social capitalism.
Vinod 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 Vinod as Melaka was the birthplace of his mother.
Education has always been a topic of strong interest to 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 in what was known as the “Sekhar Initiative”.
While still in his 20s, 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.
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 Co-Chair of Horasis meetings worldwide.
Vinod is also the Honorary Consul General of St. Vincent & the Grenadines to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Vinod 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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