Did you know that Malaysia is the no.1 producer of condoms in the world? Yup, that’s right. Sex maybe a taboo subject in our country but safe sex is important regardless of what your opinion on sex is. Condoms are one of the many ways couples can have sex without having to worry about having babies or spreading diseases.
It’s good to know that Malaysia is contributing in people’s health around the world. We’ve learned the origin and success stories of Malaysia’s very own Ramly Burger and 99 Speedmart. Both are inspiring so let’s now take a deeper dive into Karex Berhad, a company that’s responsible in making sure that everyone is being safe while being intimate.
Here’s all we know about Karex; from when they first started to all the things they’ve achieved over the years. Karex Berhad goes all the way back to early 1900s where the first generation of the Goh family first settled in Malaysia (then Malaya or Tanah Melayu) after migrating from China. The company first started off as a rubber tree farm and rubber factory in the southern state of Johor owned by Goh Huang Chiat.
He opened a small sundry shop on a rubber estate in Muar before expanding the business into a rubber-processing factory. The condom factory was then founded in 1988 by Goh Siang and Goh Leng Kian, a chemical engineer and a mechanical engineer respectively. The two siblings apparently built the condom making machines from scratch. Timing couldn’t be better as there was the HIV/Aids epidemic during the 80s which is why they ventured into making condoms.
The business’s big break was back in 1997 during the Asian financial crisis, which made the US dollar/ringgit exchange rate leap from 2.70 to 4.50. By 1999, the company grew to 60 employees with an annual revenue of $1.9 million (RM 8.4 million today). After finishing his studies in economics and management at the University of Sydney, the current CEO Goh Miah Kiat (MK) took over the family business. Karex expanded quite rapidly after MK signed a deal with UN and WHO to fight against HIV/Aids.
By 2013, Karex was listed on Bursa Malaysia and became the no.1 producer of condoms in the world. The company has since produced over 5 billion condoms a year which is one in every five condoms globally! Even after all that success, the business faced another hardship which was the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the mandatory lockdown back in March 2020, the company was forced to halt production for over a week and this caused a strain in the global supply chain for condoms and a possible global condom shortage even though Karex was allowed to resume work with reduced workforce. Earlier this year, MK told Nikkei Asia that sales have been improving now that restrictions are more relaxed.
So what’s next for the world’s no.1 condom making factory? According to the CEO, Karex plans to diversify into medical-glove manufacturing, which has seen explosive growth during the pandemic. Luckily, the materials used to make these items are similar to that of condoms.