tyre mountains by turning waste into reusable rubber
technology could help solve a growing environmental
problem by creating a commercially viable product
from old rubber
Datuk Vinod Sekhar is a man
with a vision. As head of the Petra Group, a Malaysian
company with interests spanning rubber recycling and
renewable energy, he hopes to make the world a greener
place in which to live. We found an opportunity
to earn money while making a difference, he
says. It is that simple.
At the heart of his agenda is Green Rubber, a breakthrough
in waste disposal and recycling that essentially turns
old rubber particularly old car tyres
into new rubber. The Petra Group owns the worldwide
patent rights to DeLink, thought to be the only commercially
viable technology that enables scrap and waste rubber
to be devulcanised, in a safe and non-toxic
The process, a world first,
breaks down tyre waste into a natural green rubber
compound, 100 per cent of which can then be resold
and used to manufacture all kinds of rubber products.
Described as the first commercially
viable waste-free way to recycle more than one billion
discarded tyres around the world, at the same time
it produces Green Rubber, a new premium product that
maintains the same durability of the rubber compound.
Dr Vinod says: To us,
the critical factor was: if you are going to create
a technology or solution that has an impact or will
work as a solution for humanitys problems then
it must be commercial. If it is not commercial, people
will not buy into it.
Rubber waste, specifically
from tyres, is a growing environmental problem. Anyone
who has seen the depressing sight of a smouldering
tyre mountain will surely welcome the idea. Hollywood
actors Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson certainly did and
have endorsed the venture.
Taking this eco-friendly solution
to the global market place remains a big step forward,
however. The De-Link compound is now sold commercially
in some Asian markets such as Thailand, Indonesia
and China, but the intention is to take the idea much
further, including Europe and North America.
Dr Vinod last year addressed
an audience of nearly 400 Chief Executives at the
Forbes CEO conference in Singapore, promoting Green
Rubber Global, one of Petra Groups subsidiaries.
During 2008 there are plans to list the company on
the London Stock Exchange. Former British energy minister
Lord Colin Moynihan has been appointed as an Executive
Chairman to help sell the idea to UK investors.
technological breakthrough has revolutionised
tyre disposal worldwide
Across the Atlantic, a manufacturing
site is being set up in Gallup, New Mexico, which
will provide more than 200 new jobs once at full capacity.
Given the American passion for automobiles, and a
growing concern about the environment, Petra Group
is in the right place at the right time. In the US
alone, more than 300 million tyres are discarded every
year; around the world that figure is closer to 1.3
At present, those discarded
tyres are either burnt in cement kilns or dumped in
landfills, which can contaminate the soil, or end
up as unsightly tyre mountains.
Dr Vinod, who started the
company when he was just 18 years old, says the companys
technology breakthrough started a decade ago with
the research work done by his father. It took
us 10 years to get it to where it is now.
Initially, 12 parts of the
DeLink compound were added to the rubber mix, but
through the years this has been reduced to eight parts,
and then just two parts. It means the formula is simple
and cost-effective. During that period the market
has also evolved with commodities prices soaring and
environmental awareness growing.
It took us a long time
to get it right, he says. But as it has
happened the market is now not just ready for a product
like ours, it is hungering for it. Although
the idea is commercially driven the ultimate goal
is to give something back both to the environment
and to Malaysia. I believe in giving back to
Other technological innovations
from the Petra Group include DeProtin, which addresses
latex allergy, the use of scalar waves to treat HIV
positive patients and software for the banking industry.
DATUK VINOD SEKHAR, PETRA GROUP PRESIDENT AND CEO
to make this country the centre of innovation’
What is it that has motivated
Malaysia to rethink its approach to the global market?
We came to the realisation
that as a country of 24 million people, we are small
and we need to look outwards. In doing so, we went
and looked for new markets and opportunities that
we could move immediately into. We need to create
our own niche in a variety of areas. And in Malaysias
case it is not only about creating products or innovations
from within Malaysia, but bringing them to Malaysia
and making them our own.
We want to make this country
the centre of innovation. After all we are the ideal
stepping stone to the vast and critical Chinese and
Indian markets. To do this we have to create an environment
conducive to innovation and development, for people
to make this the home of their development then export
and expand from here. I believe this is exactly what
we as a country are doing now.
What political issues concern
you as a Malaysian businessman?
We have to tackle issues like
poverty eradication, empowerment, and job creation.
These are key areas that are critical to me as a capitalist.
In the long term, I need to create more people in
the middle class. If I do not create more wealth,
no one will buy my products. There is no market for
me to sell to. If we do not find a solution for poverty,
then we are cannibalising our market. It is all about
who you sell to and what market you create and the
spending power they have.
In Malaysia, we have done a great job tackling these
issues and we have to continue doing what we are doing.
Personally, I want everyone to become richer so I
can do more business, so that I can have a bigger
market. We all have to start playing a role to make
this happen. Poverty is not good politically or economically.
What would be your message
to potential investors in Malaysia?
It is important that people
understand what Malaysia has to offer. It is a very
special country. We are probably one of the worlds
best kept secrets. Come and visit us and see what
we have got. We are ready to do business. When the
world comes to see our country for what it is, they
are going to be amazed not only in terms of
business, but socially how individuals in a
multicultural country like ours have managed to prosper
together. That says a lot.