MAKING TECHNOLOGY WORK

Malaysia 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Datuk Vinod Sekhar, Chairman & Group Chief Executive of Petra Group, on the entertainment sector, rubber recycling, and what makes Malaysia special.

Datuk Vinod Sekhar
BIOGRAPHY
Datuk Vinod Sekhar is the Chairman and Group Chief Executive of Petra Group, Chairman and Founder of Green Rubber Global, and the Hon. Consul General to Malaysia for St Vincent and The Grenadines. In 1990, he formed STI Group, which was responsible for a number of technology innovations and then merged with other international interests to create the Petra Group.

What is the vision behind Petra Group?

We look at things that make a difference. I am a social capitalist. What we're about is making money, but in the process of that seeing if we can make a difference to society, and if we can improve things. I always look for businesses and ideas that can achieve such progress, whether they are in biotech, in industrial tech, or in our movie business. For me, it is just finding new innovations. We are all about strategic partnerships and we are very keen to work with other people. So it is not just about selling something, it is also about contributing to creating a more affluent society. I need to play a role in education, to help people move up, to make an impact on society. If everyone did something, imagine how things would change. Once you do that, you have earned all the bells and whistles. You have earned your money.

Could you explain the nature of your movie business?

The fastest growing area in Asia is entertainment and the delivery of entertainment. The challenge is how to entertain the new generation of Asians who are growing by double-digit percentages annually, and whose demand for instant gratification is higher, and how to also educate them through entertainment. We undertake the production of movies and are also aggressively looking into technologies that are related to the media. We have also been working on a number of TV series.

The group, through its subsidiary Green Rubber Global, is engaged in recycling rubber. What social problem does this address?

The world's number one environmental problem right now, believe it or not, is waste tires: we throw out 1.4 billion tires a year, which go into landfills, tire mountains, or are burnt for energy. Burning tires for energy is disastrous, releasing sulfur and toxins into the air. Yet if you bury tires, you contaminate the soil and the water table. As for tire mountains, they breed mosquitoes and hence are vectors for diseases like malaria or dengue fever. And if these piles catch fire, you cannot extinguish them. This is not talked about because it is not a product you can claim to want less of. The more development and wealth, the more cars, and the more cars, the more tires. So what we've come up with is a way to recycle it back into a compound that can then go back into tires, or shoes, or any rubber product. It is the world's only truly commercialized process for recycling rubber for tires. This is true recycling, and the recycled compound is cheaper than the original. It's one of those few products where nobody loses. I win, the manufacturer wins thanks to the lower cost, and the end user wins, too. We are opening a plant in the UK now, which PM David Cameron has recently announced, and also here in Malaysia and in the Middle East. We will export this recycled rubber all over the world. We want to expand into America, South America, and Southern Africa. Our aim is to make it the focus of a poverty eradication program that allows communities to recycle their waste. So the idea is to visit communities and teach them how to turn what is waste into green rubber. This will galvanize communities into considering the environment, while at the same time empowering them as they will be generating income in the process. In short, it is a good balance.