The Businessman in the Philanthropist
Green RubberTM is but a part, albeit an extremely important part, of The Petra Group’s businesses. As a molecular biologist by training, it is no surprise that biotechnology is also a main component of Petra’s businesses.
As part of their biotechnology business, Petra has developed several technologies that have positively affected the lives of people such as DeProtin which is a patent pending process that enables the removal of allergens from latex products such as latex gloves. Another development of note from Petra is Scalar technologies, which may enable HIV carriers to lead normal lives in a cost effective way.
Other avenues Petra is involved in include entertainment, IT and telecommunications and finance. The one common theme all of Petra’s activities share is that they are all geared towards the betterment of lives.
This does not mean though that Datuk Vinod is a dreamy idealistic person. Yes, he has his principles, he has his ideals but he is very much a canny businessman. He is willing to take risk and invest in places where others might fear to tread because he believes that the initial outlay will be returned with many times interest compounded. But more important than that, that he is able to make a positive impact on peopleís lives by doing so.
One example he gave is Petra’s current venture into St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The nature of this venture is the development of the jetrophar plant, which can be used for the manufacture of bio-diesel. Now, other businessmen might question the wisdom of investing technology into an area where there is hardly any business of that sort. But this is what differentiates Datuk Vinod from others; he is not so much a businessman as he is an entrepreneur and an entrepreneur creates his own opportunities.
When one hears Datuk Vinod talk about the venture, the belief and passion in his voice is obvious. This is a project that only requires a minimum investment, it has low risks, it will bring about profits and it will also positively impact the lives of the people in the Caribbean. Equally as important though is that it is a project that will generate business and economic growth. Investments mean businesses flourishing, businesses flourishing means jobs, jobs mean money, money means more purchasing power, which in turn lead to more businesses being set up and the cycle continues. It is a self-replicating process. And at the end, we would have created employment and wealth for the people, improve their lives and as a corporation, we would have made profits. “Fidel Castro called me a Social Capitalist.” says Datuk Vinod. “Maybe he’s right. The future of the world is social capitalism - where everyone can strive to be the best they can be, but where others are not just left behind and forgotten.”
A champion of education
As one can see from the above, Datuk Vinod is more than just a business leader. He is a man who firmly believes in social justice and social development, traits which his mother, Puan Sri Sukumari Sekhar instilled in him when he was younger.
One cause he is particularly dedicated to is education. It is something that he recognised many years ago and at the young age of 21 in 1991, he had the foresight and initiative to create the first “Global Education Conference” in Kuala Lumpur where principals from 30 top schools from around the world were invited to discuss on the building of bridges between different educational curricula.
In recognition of this initiative, he was named the first Asian and youngest fellow of Kappa Delta Pi, a US based international Honours Society for education. Furthermore, he and his friend N.K Tong were responsible for the establishment of the Mont Kiara International School, which further highlights his commitment to the cause of education.
There is real joy in Datuk Vinod’s face when he talks about visiting the schools and centres he has helped build. And having the children hug him and how that is “the best high in the world... no drug or drink in the world can do that. Seeing the faces of those children and knowing that you’ve touched their lives.”
The Sitavani Foundation, which he formed and is the chairman of, has been at the forefront of education and children development programmes. He is also the chairman of the Pelita Harapan (Lantern of Hope) which focuses on terminally ill children and the cochairman of the Innocent Child Appeal Fund Board which helps abused children.
The soul of an artist
Datuk Vinod Sekhar, business leader, entrepreneur, visionary, innovator, educationist, philanthropist and crusader for social justice... it remains as hard to define him in just a few simple words. He has presented papers at and participated in international conferences such as 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 and the World Economic Forumís Annual Meeting in Davos to name but a few. He has been named one of the 40 New Asian Leaders by the World Economic Forum and recently Forbes magazine ranked him as one of the 20 richest persons in Malaysia.
To this list of accolades, we must also include playwright, poet and raconteur. The arts is definitely something that is close to Datuk Vinod’s heart and Petra has sponsored several top arts and music events such as “An Evening With The Master and His Angel” featuring renowned sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and Annusha Shankar.
Datuk Vinod has definitely led a colourful and exciting life, which is made all the more remarkable because he has not even hit the milestone age of 40, which is when (some believe) life truly begins. His life and achievements read like a movie script, choke full of highs and lows.
Did we say movie script? Well, how about play script then? Enter “In The Mind’s Eye”, which signalled Datuk Vinod’s debut on the Malaysian stage as an actor and a playwright. “In The Mind’s Eye”, which opened in July 1999 for an 11 day run was staged during a particularly difficult time of Datuk Vinod’s life, the Asian Financial Crisis that was touched upon earlier.
A play is but the reflection of a the playwright’s thoughts and feelings albeit in a dramatised form, and “In The Mind’s Eye” was no different. It is probably best to let Datuk Vinod speak to us directly in the words he wrote in the programme notes,
“... Life in its essence, is grey - no absolute right or wrong, no black or white. But we are separated from other animals because we have the ability to lighten and darken the shades that make up life - we have the role and responsibility to say that this is right and that is wrong.”
At times, it is easy to forget that this is a man who at just 37 years old, has lived a life few can attest to. So what does the future hold for Datuk Vinod Sekhar and The Petra Group? In De-Link, DeProtin and Scalar, they have technologies that will revolutionise the world and help humanity.This is a story of a man who believes he can change the world. A strong desire, but perhaps justified, if you recall that old adage “Beware of what ye want, for ye shall get it.” He has energy, time and talent in one hand and friends who are Kings and Presidents in the other. If there is a man to watch out for in Kuala Lumpur today, it may well be Datuk Vinod Sekhar.
Each article featured in this page have been previously published and will be credited to their respective authors/publications. All other posts are Datuk Vinod's personal essays and may be found in his personal FB page.