Radhiah Shaharuddin,popular known as Puan Sri Diah, the General Manager of Grup Buku Karangkraf. The Karangkraf Media Group is a leading publisher in Malaysia. The company was established in 1979 by Dato Hussamuddin and had grown into a major organization employing 1500 people.
Karangkraf is the biggest publisher in Malaysia and also the biggest printer in Malaysia with 29 magazines, 8 state newspapers and 3 bookstores.
Sri Diah is a novelist and has produced 15 titles as well as various short-story anthologies and poets.
Puan Sri Diah, Photo: Jasmi Baba
1 – How do you came into the world of publishing and when? What were your studies?
This is a very long personal history. I began as poet and short-story writing world since I was a teenager. At 17, I successfully produced a teenage novel. I was a pure science student but I ultimately chose literature in my tertiary education.
Kumpulan Media Karangkraf CEO Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub sensed my talent and ability to work under pressure, with my high and undaunted working spirit.
After obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Creative Writing and Media from University Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, I started working at Kumpulan Karangkraf in 1984. Until today, my 30-year working period in this company has yet to quench my thirst for satisfaction.
For 20 years, I helmed the magazine publishing field as a Group Editor in the Magazine Department. With only two magazine titles initially in 1984, this department is now publishing 28 weekly, fortnightly and monthly magazines.
In 2006, I was appointed as Group Editor Akhbar Sinar Harian (daily newspaper) which operates with its tagline ‘Telus dan Tulus’ (Transparent and Sincere). This daily paper is very successful with daily sales in each state reaching 50.000 – 150.000 copies.
The newspaper is a community newspaper that delves into politics, business, local issues, exclusive reports, exposures and community activities. Sinar Harian now operates daily with eight editions according to state all over the Peninsula Malaysia.
I was appointed as a General Manager Grup Buku Karangkraf in March 2010. Now, it has been four years since I was tasked with developing the businesses of four biggest publishing entities in Malaysia, which are Alaf 21 Sdn Bhd, Buku Prima Sdn Bhd, Karya Bestari Sdn Bhd and Portal ILHAM online.
These four companies have published close to 300 book titles yearly, with an average of 25 new titles every month, including genres such as general, recipe, crafting, children and teenage novels. The novel publishing alone reached eight titles every month. And this process become more aggressive when it’s time for (Karangkraf events such as) Mini Carnival, Warehouse Sale, Book Festival and Back-to-School Sale.
Karya Bestari Sdn Bhd is the biggest Al Quran publisher in Malaysia with 15 different types of Al Quran for each category of gender and age. All these Al Quran are in Malay, complete with interpretation, prophets’ stories and hadiths.
Since December 2013 until today, more than 300,000 copies of Al Quran have been sold throughout Malaysia with the target group of women, teenagers, men and also for elders with bigger typefaces. More importantly, all these Al Quran are certified by the Government of Malaysia.
2 – What are the biggest obstacles in leading the most important publishing group in Malaysia?
For me, obstacles in the publishing world come in many forms. Besides competition with many publishers in the market, hurdles can also come from writers when issues such a limited creativity, difficulty in producing good work and fail to comply with publishing concept arise.
Grup Buku Karangkraf has more than 300 writers, consisting of novelists, motivators, religious teachers, teachers, chefs, craft experts, fashion designers and many other categories.
At the same time, competition among publishers that offer higher royalties or agents that ask for more discounts or retailers who are inconsistent in their business are all just some of the common hurdles that I face.
3 – Pesta Buku has just ended, the largest festival dedicated to the book in Malaysia. How did it go? You can give us a balance in terms of attendance and significant moments?
KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIR (KLIBF) started from 24 April until 4 Mei 2014 at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.
This prestige Book Fair organised by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia through the National Book Council (MBKM), together with the Malaysian Book Industry Council that comprises of the major players of the local book industry.
As the biggest publisher in Malaysia and the biggest printing company in Asia, Grup Buku Karangkraf was under the Pavilion Karangkraf at Level 2, Dewan Tun Dr Ismail and six other booths at Level 4, Dewan Merdeka.
At Pavilion Karangkraf, more than 10.000 copies of books and magazines were exhibited for sale and various professional programmes were conducted every hour, every day. Among these are singing sessions with all writers, launching of various types of books and discussion session for general, religious and motivation titles.
On average, the number of visitors to this book festival in one day exceeded 200.000 visitors, with almost 500.000 visitors during the Labour Day public holiday.
KLIBF is definitely of the major events in the global publishing calendar. Now in its 33th year, KLIBF provides a networking opportunity to meet with the local and international publishing community.
Over 1 million visitors attend the KLIBF every year. It is the perfect place for book lovers to get the latest books and promotions from publishers around the region. Book launches, seminars, conventions, and lots of other activities are in place to suit all levels of the reading community.
Kuala Lumpur Trade Conference Centre is a Trade Fair section, specially dedicated for local and foreign trade exhibitors and visitors to encourage exchanging of publishing and distribution rights for the benefit of the local book industry players.
Participants come from around the world, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, UK, Japan, Germany, Italy, Middle East countries and more.
Categories of books: General titles, Philosophy & Psychology, Religion, Social Sciences, Languages, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Technology, Art, Literature, Geography & History.
4 – What is, in your opinion, the state of literature in Malaysia now? And what is missing to it to even get to a Western audience?
Literature in Malaysia has been developing rapidly with the full support of the Malaysian Government that supplies lots of funds to mobilize book activities nationwide.
Every year, the government recognize one Malaysian writer who is inaugurated as Sasterawan Negara with considerable cash prize.
The Malaysian Government is committed to organize many novel, short-story and poet-writing competitions, as well as organizing writers activities, literature discussion and poet-reading activities. This is a very good scenario. Evidently, many Malaysian writers get exposure at international level.
5 – What are the books and the authors of the best-known Western culture and read in Malaysia, even in terms of the classics? And what titles released in Malaysia you’d recommend even to an audience of Western readers?
As an editor, I’m also read a lot of literatures and motivation books by writers all over the world. Among them are books on literature, culture, technologies and politics by Edward Said and John Wood, as well as books from Indonesia by Andrea Hirata, Chairil Anwar and Pramodya Ananta Toer.
“To Keep Singapore Going” by Lee Kwan Yew also attracts my interest, as well as “A Peace To End All Peace” by David Fromkin that tells about the collapse of Khalifah Usmaniah in Turkey.
Stephen Hawking and John Grisham works are also among the titles that get a lot of attention from Malaysian readers especially for those who love thrillers, satirical and philosophies.
I suggest some of the works by Sasterawan Negara that should be read by non-Malaysians, including titles from Datuk Kemala Abdullah, Datuk A. Samad Said which delves into everyday’s people lives, intellectual works by Muhamad Haji Salleh or the works by Arenawati that focuses on self-identity. (http://www.karangkraf.com/)