WHEN the three brothers who made up the group KRU formed a business partnership, they knew their family bond could help stabilise things. With clearly defined niches, they also complemented each other in their daily operations.
These days, Norman Abdul Halim, 41, Yusry, 40, and Edry, 39, are living a different dream after having been in show business for more than 20 years.
For them, the excitement of creating something new and challenging has never dimmed. However, in spite of being among the major players in the media business, the brothers avoid talking about their success.
“We have taken all the punches and the blows over the years and have our share of supporters and detractors. All this has not broken us and we prefer to remain low key for now,” said Norman, KRU Studio’s company executive president and group CEO.
Yusry and Edry are both senior vice-presidents in the company.
The former accountancy graduate was exposed to the world of business when he was 20 and he has since positioned KRU Studios as one of the leading local entertainment companies.
With a brilliant track record in business, Norman won the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award in 2007 at the Asia-Pacific Entrepreneur Awards. He is also the Recording Industry Malaysia (RIM) chairman, Malaysian Film Producers Association anti-piracy chairman and a director of the Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival and Public Performance Malaysia.
Through his vision and marketing strategy, KRU Studios has since ventured into various other businesses related to music, from producing movies to publishing books and everything in between.
“Our aim is to go international. We want to make films and music with a Malaysian identity that has global appeal.
“That would be the true test of our abilities and how we are able to put Malaysian products on the world map,” said the 41-year-old creative dynamo who has churned out movies like Cicakman, Magika, Duyung, MySpy and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, to name a few.
Magika won Best Film at the Malaysian Film Festival in 2010 while their mega project, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (The Malay Chronicles: Bloodline), was sold to 72 countries worldwide, making it one of KRU’s greatest achievements so far. The film also became the highest grossing Malaysian epic film after only five days in theatres.
Not bad for someone who started off the business with a RM2,000 loan from EMI Records ten years ago.
KRU is ahead of its peers and the formula was simple. Norman used his natural instincts and his expertise in marketing coupled with a strategic vision and leadership to mastermind success after success with all his products.
“We try to utilise the latest in film and music-making technology, and collaborate with credible entertainers and production companies from countries such as China and the US,” said Edry, the youngest of the three brothers.
KRU Studios means the world to the brothers. The bright orange and grey building with unique architecture depicts the KRU corporate identiy and is located in Cyber 8, not far from the Cyberjaya Police station.
The 1.4 ha site will expand in the next five years, taking up an extra 4.6 ha and more outdoor sets will be added.
The studio has a 929 sq m sound stage, an elevated floor with soundproof walls. The sound stage studio was built three years ago and offers world-class production facilities and services to the local and international film, television and advertising industries, with the provision of sound stages ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 sq ft for recordings, live broadcasts and TV productions.
This is complemented by its Dolby-certified mixing room and comprehensive post-production services. KRU Studios specialises in end-to-end digital non-linear editing, including colour correction, graphics and titling, based on broadcast standards. KRU Studios also does dubbing to and from most formats and can output files to all broadcast formats, including High Definition.
The brothers learnt about world-class studios through visits to the Universal and Warner Brothers studios in the US over the last decade.
“We used our studios for most of our films. The RM1.3mil horror film Karak was the first to be shot in our studio. We also recorded the Akademi Fantasia 8 students and other productions here. You can easily shoot three videos or films at one time,” said Norman. He says he expects that the company’s revenue will exceed RM30mil a year in 2015 even with no additional injection of capital.
KRU Studio, planned in 2003, is now estimated to be worth more than RM85mil. It was designed by actor/architect Azhar Sulaiman, who is also a close friend.
“We will be spending RM100mil by the year end as we are bringing in 3-D stereoscopic technology from the US. The construction of this RM35mil studio was a joint venture between developer Cyberview and us,” said Norman.
According to Norman, the business agreement gives them the option to buy the land in 10 years time.
The studio has a centralised control system and editing of film does not require tape.
“Instead, high-definition computers and cameras transfer information from the film and recording sites to the editing room via a network of cables. The system is also equipped with virus protection and backups,” said Norman.
The mixing studio is also linked to two live recording rooms as well as video shoots in the main studio. It creates the right quality of sound for films and music videos. Anuar Zain’s song Sedetik Lebih, the theme song from the movie Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, was also recorded here.
In addition to television programmes, films and music, KRU Studio also works on advertisements and multimedia products.
With a staff strength of 140, inclusive of animators, sound engineers and editors, the company has made several documentaries on historical and cultural topics as well as tourist attractions and aims for 150 to 300 hours of television productions and 12 cinema and television films a year.
KRU the hip-hop group, formed in 1992, made its mark by dishing out pop, R&B and hip-hop hits. KRU became a household name in no time and the brothers soon established KRU Records, a record label and music publishing company, releasing their own recordings and those of other artists as well.
By 2005, they formed KRU Capital Sdn Bhd, a platform to expand the company to become a truly digital media and entertainment platform to attain MSC status and become a public-listed company.
“The global market for the media and entertainment industry is growing. We are investing RM5mil next year and hopefully we can rake in US$6mil (RM19.2mil) by 2015, by using our Malaysian talent. Next year promises a lot of commerce and employment opportunities,” said Norman.
Though film making can be a bruising business, the KRU brothers know they hold the trump card as they have a lot of new ideas up their sleeves.
Vikingdom, their first English language movie, directed by Yusry and co-produced by Epic Pictures in the US, was an eye-opener. The movie, which starred Dominic Purcell (Prison Break, The Killer Elite), is part of an epic trilogy based on ancient Viking myth and history that was enough to make investors sit up and notice the KRU’s effort.
Soon, we will get to watch the 3D animated Ribbit, a joint venture with Crest Animation from the US, about a frog and its identity crisis.
The homegrown superhero Cicakman will also appear in his third movie Cicakman 3D, a re-branding of sorts, and the animated television series Geckoman.
KRU Studios also collaborates with its fellow filmmakers in CGI and distribution. Their latest online venture is KRUTV, an entertainment channel in the high definition video portal TonTon.
While Norman looks into the overall administration and marketing strategies, younger brother Yusry is into directing and creative arts while Edry tackles the sound engineering aspects and song compositions.
All three are experts and award-winners in their respective fields. In fact, they have won too many accolades to mention here. Yusry is an award-winning director for music videos and TV commercials, both domestic and international, and is also a 3D animation and visual effects specialist.
Last year, the KRU brothers diversified in another area by setting up KRU Academy, a professional college specialising in skills related to the media and entertainment industry. For a start, the college offers diploma and certificate courses in visual effects and animation for students after Form 3.
“We aspire to cultivate innovation and creativity, improve skills and increase the amount of local talents in the creative industry. Our practical training approach is such that each course is developed and designed by creative industry experts.
“Our aim is to support the creative industry. We now have 20 lecturers and 120 students. Malaysia, especially, lacks good animators, so there is a need to cultivate this talent,” said Norman.
The KRU Academy’s advisory panel comprises professionals from both local and international organisations.
KRU Studios also houses a string of popular recording artistes like Jac, Awie, Mojo and Soffaz, among others.
The company has expanded its horizons outside Malaysia with representatives in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the UK and the US.
Over the years, the brothers have been learning everything on their own. They learned early about teamwork and with an intense brotherhood, they could complement each other without ruffling each other’s feathers.
“We are grounded, respect each other and we rely on each other in different aspects of the business. We do have our disagreements but the best part about having a business relationship with your siblings is the trust factor, which is always there,” said Norman.