We need to optimise our creative industry to attract more investments – Olorunnimbe

Idris Olorunnimbe is the group chief executive officer of The Temple Company and Ogidi Studios. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, he spoke on his 7-year entrepreneurship journey and the state of the Nigerian creative industry. Excerpts:

How did you come about the concept of The Temple Company, and can you share the experience on your 7-year journey?

The concept started with audacity. When we kick-started The Temple Company in 2016, we were very clear that we wanted to compete globally. And seven years ago I couldn’t say this is where we would be today because our initial business focus was talent management. Along the line, we realized that we cannot survive and scale the business alone on talent management due to the disregard by many for processes. They want our talents, and we request that you do A, B, and C and most businesses are not willing to fulfill beyond A. It created a problem for us on the talent side as well. The talent believes the manager doesn’t need the money which is why they are insisting that the businesses must fulfill A, B, and C conditions, but because they need the cash to survive and go behind you to take the deal, leaving you to clear the mess thereafter. This was creating lots of problems for us and we decided to build a universe so that our talents can thrive, that is how we formed our subsidiaries such as Ogidi Studios, TMPL Motion Pictures, etc to utilize the talents of our signees so that they do not need to look for anything outside. Also, we have not allowed our challenges over the years to scare us but always find ways to deal with them.

What is the value of the Nigerian creative industry and its current state?

As of 2018, the Nigerian creative industry was estimated to be worth $3.8 billion and the value as of today will have almost doubled. The UK with a population size of 68.8 million has a creative industry worth about $116.6 billion as of 2019 and the US with 300 million people is worth $877 billion. So, Nigeria with a population of over 200 million can do 10 times what we are currently doing in our creative industry.

There are three main challenges we need to address in the industry to spur growth. The first is the infrastructural challenge. From inception there was no national focus on the creative industry, so the needed infrastructures were never provided from the start of our national development. Things are changing now as there are lots of interest in the industry. This is driving investments into the industry but there will be more investments when the right infrastructures are provided. For me, equity is the kind of investment that is needed in the industry rather than loans. The second challenge is skill deficits. Lots of people in the industry are self-taught and there is nothing wrong with it but they still need to be professionally taught. Thanks to the Lagos State Government in partnership with people like us, we are training people across different aspects of the creative. We did this with the Gidi Creative Centre (GCC) training over 200 young creatives in relevant skills in collaboration with the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Henley Business School, London among others.

The better skilled we are, the more products we are likely going to attract. Once our skills are at par it will attract production and investments. The third is the talent deficit – lots of our singers and actors are not pipelined. They are discovered and there is nothing wrong with it but there must be a process.

How has Temple been able to deal with these challenges?

Our footprint is clear, where we want to go is certain and things keep changing daily in the industry. One of the things we did three years ago was to set up a world-class recording facility, Ogidi Studios to fill the infrastructure gap. Our goal was to raise the bar in production and boost the confidence of global players in our local industry. Today, Ogidi Studios has attracted patronage from the likes of Netflix, CNN, and recently, Hollywood producers, Marvel Studios.

Last year, Hollywood producer, Ryan Coogler flew quietly into Lagos to do scoring and soundtrack for his blockbuster, Black Panther (Wakanda Forever) in our facility. It was a moment of fulfillment of the dream that made up set up Ogidi Studios and a big statement for the Nigerian creative industry. We have only just started.

Another strategy we employed was collaboration and partnerships and you can see this with the success of the 2022 edition of the Nigerian University Games (NUGA) hosted by the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG). We were invited by the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof Toyin Ogundipe to help raise the standard of the games and deliver a historic edition that would be talked about even after. To date, the feedback from different stakeholders has been overwhelming and it was a proud moment for my team and me, especially for me as an alumnus. So, constant innovation, creativity, and commitment have enabled us to deal with so many challenges. Teamwork within our organization, a clear vision of what the potentials are, and the possibility that we will crack it have also helped us deal with challenges as they come.

Read also: Oluwatoyin Naiwo – Registrar/Chief Executive, CIPM, Nigeria

Can you share your creative industry agenda for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president-elect?

I am excited about the incoming president as his manifesto has already spoken on ways to address the major challenges limiting the country’s creative industry. Once this starts to happen at a national scale, the right investments will start coming into the sector and wealth will be created. The creative industry redistributes wealth. It has a multiplier effect from food vendors at a production set to carpenters, hotels, and make-up artists among others. The convergence of individuals and businesses for film production in a particular city also stimulates growth. The creative industry is very important, the US has used it to sell its narrative to the world and Nigeria needs to start telling stories of hope, of things that bind us and not what divides us. Not everybody will understand tourism and its potential. You have to be a city person to understand it. Tinubu has lived in Chicago and beyond living in Lagos, he has seen the positive impact of tourism and what it has done for the economy of less exciting places. Now, he is the incoming president, he will replicate what he has seen in those places because of his experiences in Lagos as well as his understanding of its impact on the economy. The creative industry is one of the greatest employers of labor and in terms of driving the country’s FX, it is a no-brainer.

Where should an investor who is interested in the creative industry invest in considering the realities on the ground and how soon can he get his returns on investment?

The creative industry is a long-term industry for profitability but there are also some low-hanging fruits. Most people are into movies and series production because you can quickly turn it around. This is short-term. Part of the infrastructure we need in the industry is an opportunity for investors but they may not be the ones to reap the bigger profits. If the investor has a deep pocket and can wait for the long term, I will advise them to invest in infrastructure. I also see opportunities in training in the near term. Some skills in the industry need to be upgraded and some people need to come and learn afresh. Content never expires so they can also invest in content creation. For instance, Home Alone, the movie was produced a long time ago but it still generates lots of money every Christmas. An investment in content creation is an investment that will outlive you. Intellectual property rights are being transferred today. Investors can also invest in costumes and wardrobes as the clothes used for production are not owned by the actors or actresses.

The cost of doing business crisis has worsened owing to the persistent naira and fuel scarcity. How has it impacted the country’s creative industry?

We are suffering. The naira scarcity is affecting the creative industry negatively because a lot of the things we do are mostly cash-based. On a movie set, you have an actress as big as Bisola Aiyeola, you have a carpenter and if they don’t nail what they are meant to nail, Bisola cannot go on set. The drivers need cash to be at the venue and if they can’t find the cash they won’t come. For some, we have had to pay more depending on their skills by ordering e-hailing cab services because of the urgency and this is an additional production cost. It is either you pay more or lose it in time. The industry is suffering from this naira scarcity. The industry is one of those that spread wealth and cash moves. A small payment such as N500 that does not require can stall production of N5 million. You go to the bank and you can’t get money and this has been frustrating. In a few months, we would be able to estimate the loss to the industry in terms of value owing to the policy.

You have been in the creative industry for seven years, what would you advise an entrepreneur who wants to come into the industry?

I encourage them to come but they should always remember that the industry is not a sprint but a marathon. You must be ready to go on a long journey and ensure you find people with lots of passion and a deep understanding of the industry. There is lots of room for everybody in the sector. The Lagos State government recently partnered with an organization to build a mega city and this doesn’t stop us from doing ours. The more we can have that standard will help the country attract big-ticket production. We are blessed with abundant resources and this will spur several other states to envision creating cities. The industry has been cracked but it is not yet optimized and this is what we need to do.

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