The return of Vinod Sekhar (Part 2): Friends with everyone

DATUK (Dr) Vinod Sekhar spoke to FocusM about his political affiliations, what his businesses are about today and how it has grown exponentially despite the pandemic. Please click here for Part 1 of The Return of Vinod Sekhar.

What is your relationship with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim?

Everyone knows that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is one of my closest friends. I have known him since I was 13 years old. But I am also close with many other politicians.

For instance, former Prime Minister (PM) Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whom I respect for enhancing our freedom of speech and letting the judiciary act without fear or favour and political interference.

When I was sick in hospital last year, Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin dropped by to visit me. Despite all that was going on, he took the time to check up on me.

I have many friends in Pakatan Harapan, Umno, Bersatu and even PAS. I even had a close relationship with the late Tok Guru Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. Even Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is like a younger brother to me. So you can say I have friendships across the political divide.

Vinod with Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi


Most importantly, I don’t choose my friends based on their political agenda or ambitions. That way, I can argue with them when I think they are wrong but do it as a friend who disagrees.

Even my own management team are aligned to different political ideas but at the end of the day, it’s all about working with each other.

I really believe we need political maturity in the Malaysian society. We have to go beyond the “them and us” mentality. Put it this way, I might like char kuey teow and you might like laksa but that doesn’t mean that we can’t eat on the same table while slurping the same sirap bandung or cendol.

Political alignments should be disregarded when dealing with nation-building and supporting the most vulnerable in our society. I have supported communities in Sabah, Kelantan and all over regardless of politics, race or religion.


You have been linked to many prominent international personalities. There are also allegations that some of these relationships have turned sour. Can you elaborate?

I have been all over the world and made many friends everywhere, many of whom I am still very close to. They include former Colombian President Andres Pastrana, former US President Bill Clinton, King Abdullah of Jordan and the late South African leader Nelson Mandela and even the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

I met Fidel Castro some years back; he called me a social capitalist for which I humbly accept the moniker as I truly believe that social capitalism is the only true form of capitalism.

Vinod with Fidel Castro


There are so many silly rumours. One that stands out is a story about a lawsuit by Bruce Willis against one of our companies.

The fact is that 24 hours after the story came out, Bruce had withdrawn the suit explaining that it was a miscommunication, stated his confidence in the company and still remains a shareholder.

Like everything in Malaysia, bad news gets front page attention, good news is buried somewhere in page 47.


In your 20s and 30s you had already accomplished a lot by creating one of Southeast Asia’s first internet companies, making films with Disney MGM in the US, and privatising Europe’s largest petrochemical refinery, among other feats. Can you tell us more about the PETRA Group and what businesses it is involved in now?

Over the years, I have learnt many hard lessons as an entrepreneur and I decided to apply it to very quickly build a group that I envision for the future.

I now have the best people, ideas and processes within PETRA. I describe the PETRA Group as being like a start-up on steroids.

Green Rubber which uses patented technologies to recycle waste tyres into new products is ready to go into full production mode although the pandemic has obviously caused delays.

Our first factory’s production is sold out for the next five years with orders from all over the world. Most importantly, it deals with one of the world’s number one environmental hazards – more than 1.5 billion tyres are discarded each year.

PETRA Modular is the largest modular building construction company in Asia Pacific outside China. We are also in furniture manufacturing, monorail, mobile public service solutions, film, television and music content creation as well as over-the-top (OTT) platforms in the US, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Our latest foray will be in vanilla plantation with the intention of being one of the largest natural vanilla producers globally. It has the potential to be highly profitable, requiring a fraction of the land and play a role in eradicating poverty.

I put just as much emphasis on the way I do business as I do on the outcomes of my entrepreneurial endeavours.

Everyone in the PETRA team, from my senior executives to our support staff, understand and believe in the idea of doing it right by doing something for the betterment of others and the communities around us. This is why my foundation plays a big role in everything we do to ensure we are lifting others up as we make money.

My agenda now is to make sure that businesses play a role in our nation’s social development. While we make money, we must also be part of the solution and not spectators. This is what PETRA Group stands for and we strive to set an example for others.

Vinod with Bill Clinton


Can you tell us about your motivation in setting up The Vibes?

I set up PETRA News and launched The Vibes in September 2020 at a time when other publications were cutting staff in the middle of the pandemic.

I believe that Malaysia needs multiple news portals that provide independent, reliable information.

Of course, there will be opinion pieces that will take positions, political or otherwise. But opinion pieces are stated as opinions of the individuals. It is up to the public to decide if they agree with the opinion.

However, the news should be clear, accurate and as far as possible without prejudice. I believe PETRA News’ success will depend on our ability to maintain that neutrality as far as news delivery goes.

The Vibes has interviewed leaders from all political parties and allowed opinions from all sides.

The Vibes is now the fastest growing news portal and we are seeing a 30% monthly increase in returning visitors. We have an incredible team headed by Terence Fernandez and Datuk Ahiruddin Atan (also known as Rocky Bru). Datuk Zainul Ariffin, another media stalwart, has just joined us to spearhead the marketing and branding of Petra News.

There have been rumours about PETRA News and The Malaysian Insight. What I can tell you is that Jahabar Sadiq is a close friend and is someone I respect. I am still engaging with him on how our news portals can work together.

While the media landscape is evolving and moving digital, I hope that credible news publications will continue to survive in this very difficult landscape.

For our part, under PETRA news we have launched a Malay news portal,, earlier this year and will soon launch the Financial Vibes to cover business, economic and corporate news. – June 18, 2021

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