Finding Family, Flavour, and Fortune in Greater Kuala Lumpur

Welcoming and warmth is how Vinayak Sasitharan or Vinnie as his family and friends call him, describes Greater Kuala Lumpur (Greater KL/KL).

The Australian-born CFO of Arnott’s Asia’s love for the city has led him to deeply appreciate its diverse culture, vibrant atmosphere, and the growth opportunities it offers. Vinnie’s journey in Greater KL reflects not only his professional achievements but also his personal connections. 

In this interview, Vinnie shares his initial move to Greater KL, his experience in the city, the delicious vegetarian food scene, and tips for new expats navigating Malaysia’s capital city.

Q1: Tell us about yourself.

"My name is Vinayak (Vinnie) Sasitharan, an Australian raised in Sydney. I am Arnotts Asia’s CFO as well as the Commercial Director of the Japan Business. Initially starting my career in Investment Banking, I made the switch to FMCG very early on and have worked for Arnotts for 14 years. I have worked at the corporate office and manufacturing sites in Sydney before beginning my expat career in Jakarta and now in Malaysia."


Q2: How long have you been here in Greater KL? How has your journey here so far transformed your family's experience, and what aspects of life here have probably left you pleasantly surprised?

"I have lived in KL for almost 3 years, arriving in April 2021 with my wife & 18-month-old son. Despite the stringent COVID restriction, we were so impressed by how welcoming and inviting Malaysians are – everyone we met went out of their way to be accommodating, making us feel at home and helping us settle down quickly. 

This warmth & hospitality is what has kept us here three years later! KL offers a wonderful mix of East and West. The ease with which you can communicate in English sets it apart from other Southeast Asia countries. The food is heavenly, and the city is extremely kid-friendly. 

We aim to embark on a new activity every weekend and still have not even scratched the surface of experiencing everything this amazing city has to offer! We absolutely love KL and have also grown our family to include a little girl who calls Malaysia home."


Q3: Can you share your overall experience living in Greater KL as an expat? Which aspects of life in this region have made it unique or different from your home country?

"The significant difference resonates in the melting pot of cultures that is unique to only Malaysia alone. Rarely do you find a city that celebrates Deepavali with the same gusto as Chinese New Year, Ramadhan, and Christmas. The acceptance and enthusiasm to bring all walks of life together as one is a joy to witness and something from which we can all keep learning from."


Q4: What were the challenges you faced when adjusting to life in Greater KL? How has your perception of the city changed? Have there been any cultural or lifestyle elements that you've grown to appreciate or embrace during your time here?

"As is common in any country or city, there are challenges, and the life of an expat, particularly in a new city with imposed movement restrictions, can be lonely, we arrived in KL amid the heart of COVID. The rigid and constantly changing rules made it challenging to settle down and fully embrace what this city had to offer.

For new expats, the key is to get ourselves out there – meet as many new people as possible and start forging some wonderful friendships. We found this is easier in a place like KL, where the openness and warmth of the Malaysian community truly helped make us feel welcome.

As vegetarians, and after coming from Jakarta, we had concerns about the hygiene and food options available. However what we encountered truly blew our mind! The abundance and variety of vegetarian food are second to none – I'm still exploring all the vegetarian restaurants in the city and new ones keep popping up!"


Q5: When deciding to open an overseas office, what factors should a company consider, and what advantages does Greater KL offer compared to other regional cities?

"Our Company looked at various options when deciding on the ideal city that would be best to establish a Regional Hub, considering several cities across Southeast Asia. However, KL & Malaysia offered numerous advantages that made the decision incredibly easy for us.

 
Communication – the ease of doing business in English and having a workforce capable of seamless communication with Australia and other Business Units

Capability – The Malaysian workforce is highly skilled, providing excellent value for both only domestic and international business units. 

Tax – Malaysia's tax structure and application provide reassurance to multinational companies. Furthermore, various tax incentives are available to encourage foreign companies to invest in Malaysia."


Q6: Living in a new place often comes with memorable experiences. Could you share some anecdote or unforgettable moment that encapsulates your time in Greater KL?

"Though perhaps not my smartest decision, I started training for a marathon last year and set my sights on the 2023 KL Marathon. With kids, however, this meant running well into the night when they were well and sound asleep in bed and when the heat wasn't bone-sapping. 

However, what struck me was just how safe and vibrant this city is, even at odd hours of the early morning. I would run through Little India, Central Market, head into KLCC and loop around Petronas Twin Towers. Tourists and locals alike would still be whizzing around on Beam scooters and taking selfies. 

I remember on one such occasion, I met the dreaded uphill Jalan Maroof at midnight whilst running KM 27. Some young locals were on bicycles at the time and started hovering around. What may feel like an uncomfortable situation in other cities was not so in this instance – they all inquired why I was foolishly running and then proceeded to cycle up the long hill with me, encouraging and supporting me all the way. 

This to me epitomised Malaysia in a nutshell – warm and full of love!"




Vinayak and his family embracing the great outdoors beyond Greater KL – here's a snapshot from their adventurous trip to Sabah!

Q7: Describe a typical weekend in Greater KL for you and your family.

"A typical weekend is very kid-focused having 2 children under 5 running around. Saturday morning always begins with swimming followed by a visit to the local Wet Market at Lucky Gardens in Bangsar, where we stock up on all our fresh fruit for the week – Malaysian fruits are the best in the world and we go crazy over rambutan, mangosteen, mangoes, jackfruit, pineapple, and fresh coconut water!

Sunday is generally our adventure day where we will look to play 'tourist' and see a different part of KL or Malaysia. We love taking the kids on hikes or driving up to Genting and uncovering some exciting waterfalls in Rawang.

The social scene is also very busy in KL and there is always a party to attend or a new restaurant to visit – the city is so vibrant and the people are so fun that it makes for a jam-packed and exciting weekend!"




Vinnie and his family making the most of their time together at Taman Tugu.

Q8: For expats considering a move to Greater KL, what advice would you offer to help them make a smooth and enjoyable transition to this diverse and vibrant region?

"The simple answer is to move here immediately! An important step before arriving, however, is to consider which area you would like to live in close to your chosen schools and workplace. Traffic is real and can be frustrating. However, people are so helpful and sign up to as many Facebook or WhatsApp community groups and forums, and don't be afraid to ask as many questions upfront as you want – we have all been in the same position and are only too willing to help make the transition smoother."

Let us facilitate your growth in the region.

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