Of condoms, durians and nasi lemak


PETALING JAYA: Goh Miah Kiat is the CEO of the world’s biggest condom-maker which churned out approximately 15% of the world market last year, but despite his international success, Malaysian interests still play a big role in his business.

One has only to look at Karex’s research and development branch to see the distinctly local twist he puts into his products.

Durian-flavoured condoms have been around for a while, but Goh has no plans to stop at the king of fruits.

“The next thing I am trying to work out is a nasi lemak-flavoured condom.

“In Malaysia, the first thing we wake up in the morning, we talk about our nasi lemak. So I suppose it is something that will unite us all,” he said in a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia.

Other unusual designs include glow-in-the-dark condoms, tattoo-inspired textured ones and condoms with studs, which he said are one of Karex’s best-sellers.

Goh’s multi-million dollar business started off as a rubber-processing factory run by his family. During the 1980s global commodity crash, though, the business began to flounder.

That was when they decided to go into condom-making.

Although the first few years were not easy – the family nearly went bust, owing over a year’s worth of rental – Karex gradually turned around.

In 1999, when Goh joined the business after graduating from the University of Sydney, Karex recorded some RM7 million in sales.

Sixteen years later, it had grown to RM350 million. Now, it is known as a contract manufacturer for best-known brands like Durex.

Although the company also makes catheters, ultrasound probe covers and lubricating jelly, condoms are by far its largest offering, comprising 93% of its revenue according to Forbes.

Last year, Karex churned out about five billion condoms. One in every five condoms in the world comes out of its factories in Malaysia and Thailand, CNA added.

Goh said he expected the demand for condoms to continue rising.

Pointing out that half of the world’s population was under 25 years of age, he told CNA that there would be “a lot more people who will be sexually active”.