The names Norman, Yusry and Edry are synonymous with those growing up in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in the 90s and early 2000s. What’s not to love? These three brothers are the epitome of success; their creativity, hustle and grit is next to none.
I managed to have a little chat with Norman, despite his busy schedule, to ask him about his journey and what is in store. Marketing In Asia has a little exclusive of what is coming. Read all these on Marketing In Asia’s Talking Pod with Datuk Norman Abdul Halim.
Norman, you need no introduction – you are the President & CEO of KRU Entertainment, singer, songwriter, producer, a third of a boyband; the list goes on. Can you walk us through – who is Norman Abdul Halim?
While I’m known to be the man behind KRU’s music and films, many are not aware that I’m also the founder of KRU Academy and Yayasan KRU (KRU Foundation) to support underprivileged youths to pursue tertiary education programs related to the creative industry. I have led a number of trade associations locally and regionally; and a happy family man with a beautiful daughter.
Together with two of your brothers, Yusry and Edry, you formed KRU in 1992. When I think of KRU, I remember the huge concerts, the never-seen-before music videos and teary-eyed girls. Tell us about that journey.
The 90s was very much a KRU era. For a decade, we sold millions of albums, won numerous awards, toured in Southeast Asia and even acted together in two feature films. It was really a dream come true and somehow we have managed to build the KRU brand throughout the years.
We had our ups and downs but overall, I must say that the experience has developed us to be who we are today and we are ever so grateful to our fans who have made us part of their lives, and made music history especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
Do you always know you wanted to be in entertainment?
Not really. My education background is Financial and Management Accounting. I thought I would end up being an Accountant even though my brothers and I were very passionate about producing and writing music at a very young age. I started playing music when I was 7 years old and wrote one of our popular hit songs (“Untukmu”) when I was 15 years old.
When KRU was offered a recording contract by EMI, I was 19 years old, Yusry was 18 and Edry was 16. After we produced, wrote and performed our debut album in 1992, we never looked back and knew that our career is destined to be in the entertainment business.
You have successfully branded KRU when branding was not a trending word; we are talking circa ‘92 / ‘93. How did you manage to do it then – was it coincidental or more of a calculated risk?
I wish I can tell you that it was all part of a grand master plan but it’s not. Edry and I were ardent fans of the Selangor football team while Yusry supported Kuala Lumpur. Selangor and KL are strong rivals and during every game, the Federal Riot Unit (FRU) squad would stand right on the opposite side of the fence.
Inspired by FRU, we named our music group as SRU (Selangor Rappers Unit) and when we decided to record more commercial songs in our demo, we agreed to change our name to KRU meaning “Crew”.
However the radio DJs kept referring to us as K.R.U because in our debut album inlay, the group’s name was published in capital letters. So there you go… that’s how KRU became a brand and until now, everyone calls us “K.R.U” even though it was never designed to be an acronym.
You made an empire out of KRU, which was mind-blowing. Tell us about that, Norman.
Empire? Wow! That’s such a big word. However considering we were a bunch of teenagers with no money nor experience, I guess we did pretty well considering the small market size of the music industry in Malaysia.
KRU is now a diversified yet focused group of companies in the media and entertainment industry. We have 13 companies in our group and have successfully exported our feature films to over 100 countries.
Nevertheless, we are now about to embark on a more rewarding and exciting period of our organisation as we commence our digital transformation action plan starting this September.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when first starting out?
Whatever you do, just start small and take small steps to grow your business. Focus on a business of which you are passionate about, do what you do best and get help on areas of which you know you need support.
Be ready for failures, but most importantly, never give up. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Sacrifices are not abnormal in your line of work. What are the sacrifices you have to make to be where you are now, Norman?
Time and money. As an entrepreneur, you just need to know that you’ll be the last one to get paid, or worse to use your savings to help finance your business during challenging times. You may also not have enough time with your family and friends.
The end game is the valuation of the company over a period of time.
Once you are able to get the right valuation, try not to be sentimental to sell the shares or even the entire company as it is probably in the best interest of the company to grow further in the next century and beyond; without you.
How has the world of entertainment changed, since you first started?
Digital technology has tremendously changed the landscape of the business. Whether for the production, distribution or marketing of content, the industry has progressed to a more level playing field whereby almost all entry barriers are demolished. It is a great time to be in the creative industry.
Define success for Norman Abdul Halim.
- Happy and supportive family
- Continue to entertain fans through our content and have more satisfied clients
- Double digit quarter to quarter growth for the company
What is next for Datuk Norman Abdul Halim?
Starting September 2020, we shall embark on a number of eCommerce solutions as we start to digitise our businesses, one by one. The first one is a platform called “Bukoo”, a subscription service for Malay language audiobooks and audio driven ebooks. The second platform is called “iLike”, media icon driven ecommerce marketplace integrating services such as digital advertising, social media management, influencer marketing, branded content and digital media editorial support for small and medium enterprises in Malaysia.
In phase 2, we will roll-out our activities in Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei; and in phase 3, other territories in Southeast Asia.
For those who wish to get in touch with you, how can they do so?
Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.