Datuk (Dr) Vinod Sekhar

Datuk (Dr) Vinod Sekhar is currently
Chairman of the PETRA Group,
Chairman of Vinod Sekhar Trust

and Founder of the Vinod Sekhar Foundation.

Datuk Vinod, aged 52, began his business career while still in college studying molecular biology where he started the Vincent Siefer Clothing Co. with US$50. Soon after, he formed the Sitavani Foundation, which focuses its attention on the education of children and on child development programmes.

In 1990, he formed and became the CEO of the STI Group with partners and was responsible for some ground-breaking businesses such as the world’s smallest optic engine, the first circular abrasive discs, Southeast Asia’s first commercial Internet company (at a time when Malaysia had a total of 700 internet users), and a variety of other technology innovations including one of the first virtual reality companies in the US. The multimedia arm of the Group was also responsible for the first Malaysian joint venture to produce a movie at Disney MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida (Tarzan: The Epic Adventures).

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Datuk Vinod was also one of the first Malaysians 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, and he founded Malaysia’s first sports car company. Datuk Vinod also started East Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable farm in Malaysia, 3 years before the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad called for the development of commercial vegetable farms critical to Malaysia.

After the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, STI merged with his other international interests and the PETRA Group was created. PETRA, named after Datuk Vinod’s eldest daughter was initially responsible for several global technology developments related to Elastomer recycling (Green Rubber), deproteinisation, HIV and cancer treatment programmes, innovative financial software, biophotonics, and biofuels.

Today, the PETRA Group has grown exponentially and is now a diverse global conglomerate involved in the areas of sustainable technologies, modular building construction, (monorail) transit systems, food agriculture, infrastructure and engineering, media and entertainment, food and beverage, research and philanthropy.

Globally, Datuk Vinod is transforming the rubber industry with Green Rubber, that deals with one of the world’s environmental hazards – waste rubber tyres. With over 1.5 billion tyres discarded annually, Green Rubber is the sustainable answer. PETRA Modular, 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, Datuk 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 the lives of the communities that they operate in.

Datuk Vinod has presented a variety of papers at and participated in many international conferences including 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.

Datuk Vinod has over the years undertaken various social initiatives internationally to alleviate poverty, provide healthcare and education, and support the most vulnerable communities including the indigenous, disabled, old folks, children, refugees, and hardcore poor. He is the Chairman of the Vinod Sekhar Trust, Founder of the Vinod Sekhar Foundation, the Chairman of the Pelita Harapan (Lantern of Hope) for terminally ill children, the Co-Chairman of the Innocent Child Appeal Fund Board for abused children, and the Chairman of the Sitavani Foundation.

After being named by Forbes as the 16th richest man in Malaysia in 2007, Datuk Vinod and his wife decided that 60% of the profit from their ownership in the PETRA Group be channelled to their charitable foundations.

He was also the Founding President of Malaysiana Muda, the first non-partisan multiracial national youth organisation created to develop unity among Malaysian youth, where he warned of polarisation among young Malaysians two decades before the government finally acknowledged it was out of control. Datuk Vinod also sits on the boards of several other Malaysian and international corporate and charitable bodies.

He was the creator of the “Global Education Conference” held in Kuala Lumpur, where for the first time ever, principals from the top schools in the world such as Eton, Sydney Grammar, Chinese International School, Hong Kong and Harvard West Lake came together to discuss building bridges between different educational curriculums. In all, 30 schools were represented. The “Sekhar Initiative,” as it was referred to then, led to the creation of several global programmes that enhanced interaction among the schools and led to his creation of one of Kuala Lumpur’s major international schools, The Mont’ Kiara International School, which he developed with his partners.

In 1991, for his contribution to the globalisation of education and the education of children, Datuk Vinod was made the first and youngest Asian fellow of Kappa Delta Pi, a US-based international Honors Society for Education. This organisation awarded its “The Points of Excellent” award to his company, making it the first Asian company to be so honoured.

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. The Harvard Business Review published a case study on Datuk Vinod, PETRA and Green Rubber – a rare privilege accorded to a Malaysian.

The World Economic Forum named him in the top 3 of its 40 “New Asian Leaders” (NAL). Grant Thornton named him the Malaysian Corporate Leader of the Year in August 2008. He received the award from Tan Sri Muhyuddin Yassin, and in December 2008, he received the prestigious Global Green Award from Global Green USA for Green Rubber. He was the youngest, only Asian, and third ever non-American, after President Mikhail Gorbachev and Giorgio Armani, to receive the award. He was also named as the Honorary Consul General of St. Vincent & the Grenadines to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

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, and the American Leadership Development Association and Leaders International named him the ‘Global Visionary Leader 2015’, and in 2018 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Capitalism.

More recently, in November 2020, he was conferred the Darjah Cemerlang Seri Melaka, which carries the title ‘Datuk Wira’ by Melaka Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Tan Sri Mohd Ali Mohd Rustam. He was also named Person of the Year by Asia One Magazine in January 2021.

Datuk Vinod is on the leadership council of The Climate Group. He also acted as the underwriter for the first ever Clinton Global Initiative Asia in Hong Kong, and hosted Former US President Bill Clinton in Kuala Lumpur. He was the advisor to the Faculty of Business and Law for Multimedia University, one of Malaysia’s largest private university with over 20,000 students. Datuk Vinod received the Keys to the City of Armenia in Colombia for his help after the devastating landslides that killed thousands. In 1999, he also set up an orphanage in Colombia called the Petra-Valentina House. He funded in full the 2007 “Black Ball” in London hosted by his friend singer/songwriter Alicia Keys to raise money for her charity “Keep a Child Alive.”

Datuk Vinod has become an activist for what he calls “simple principles of a civilised 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 the only Forbes Listed Figure to publicly and persistently advocate for change and transparency.

He continues today to speak out for the nation’s transformation, through his Malaysia Movement to stop the racial polarisation of Malaysian society and to create a platform for open discussion, and the Good Capitalism Forum to debate and promote the idea of Social Capitalism globally. Datuk Vinod is a strong supporter of a mindset reform in the Malaysian political landscape.

He is also the Chairman of the Good Capitalism Forum Council, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council ASEAN Board and was honoured by being invited to be a Trustee of the Windsor Benefit Trust. He was the first non-UK citizen or resident to be invited.

He has written several plays, a book of poetry, and screenplays. One of his plays, “In the Mind’s Eye,” was produced with success in the US, UK and Malaysia. Datuk Vinod 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.

In addition to playing golf, tennis and squash, he speaks 5 languages, has a black belt in judo and is an avid fan of Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, rugby and cricket. He has over 320 Disney ties. Datuk Vinod Sekhar is married to Datin Dr Winy Sekhar; they have two daughters, Petra and Tara.