Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Adetokunbo Modupe is the Chairman of TPT International, one of the leading public relations firms in Nigeria and Africa, with over 24 years experience in marketing communications, branding and advertising. Modupe, who is one of the most sought-after PR experts in Africa, told Daily Sun how he runs his idea-driven firm, while managing the attendant challenges. He also fielded questions pertinent to business edge, competition and government’s intervention in start-ups.
Our thought process is driven by innovation and creativity. I mean idea creativity. We seek to deliver value through innovative ideas that differentiate our clients from competitors.
Competition is good. When there is competition, there is complacency, arrogance and all sorts. Competition is good for the business. It always triggers you to do things better than you have done yesterday. It keeps us going. Competition is good.
There are no challenges that are peculiar to us in our industry. The business climate is such that when the economy is better, people into business will definitely thrive better. When the economy is weak, the casualty is always felt by our industry. Then, that’s when we can talk of survival first. We also have infrastructural challenges. Ever since you have been in this office, you would notice that we have been running on generator. If you have to send someone to go out now for a meeting, the person is likely to get stuck for hours in the traffic. The challenges are not really peculiar to us but in addition to that, we also have the challenge that I feel that we have not priced ourselves well, as an industry.
For the services we deliver to our clients in the area of marketing communication, experiential marketing, outdoor advertising, what PR does has a lot more in value. Even when it comes to fees, I think we haven’t priced ourselves very well. But then, by and large, I feel we have fared well. The challenges are even far beyond what I have enumerated. You are managing people, thought processes and the rest. You are into the business of idea generation and that is quite different from a mechanical operation when you are producing and it goes from the production unit to the warehouse.
The brief you are handling now is not the same one you are going to be handling the next minute. You are expected to aggregate the different thought processes of different people and come up with a superior one. You are managing thought processes and human beings to be able to deliver value to your clients. So, it’s quite intellectually engaging, and at all times, you have to keep reading to get enlightened because you never know when the next brief is coming from. You can just sit here and the next brief is coming from Law, petroleum, banking or Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). So, you have to be knowledgeable in so many areas.
Comparison with international best practices
In terms of knowledge, professionalism and idea generation, we are not doing badly, but again, I will say that we cannot compare our practice here to what is obtainable in developed nations of the world like America, UK and the rest. They don’t have the same challenges that we have. They only have to monitor thought processes and embark on a lot of researches. For us here, the same challenges we faced in traffic yesterday is what we are still going to face today. The same challenge you have on data and electricity is what you will face today. They don’t have all that challenges over there. In Britain, if I have to move around, I can time myself and everything works out the way you have planned it. You know when the bus is going to arrive and you know when it will get to your destination.
You know when the train will arrive and when you will get to your destination. You can plan out things and it works the way it has been been planned. Do you know how much you spend on data? Put a cost to that. It is not as expensive over there and you still get good value for it. Look at the issue of electricity. Aside the fact that you have to always buy diesel, look at the noise. Yet, our kind of business is the type that requires an environment where you can think and generate ideas. Now, apart from the fact that you are spending money, you are also not enjoying that money because you spend money and you generate noise in the area of power.
I don’t want to start mentioning my clients. You should know them yourself but talking about their sectors, we have them in brewery, dairy, banking, ICT, and virtually in all sectors of the economy, including government.
Funding for SMEs
I am not sure I am in the best position to talk about adequate funding for SMEs because I am an ‘idea-prenuer’, not an entrepreneur. As an ‘idea-preneur’, you can be self sustaining the way you run your business. I am not an entrepreneur who would talk about how to raise funds for businesses. I started by generating ideas and the ideas started generating income for me. That was how we grew the business to the level it is today. You develop an idea and propose it to your clients and then they buy it. That is when you can then go into implementation. That is totally different from when someone opens a business for buying and selling. That is the business of entrepreneurs and I am not an entrepreneur. If I am to advocate anything, it is ‘idea-preneur’.
Loans and borrowings
I didn’t grow the business through acquisition of loans and grants from friends or government. My business model is different. That’s what I am telling you. My business model is different. It is just different. I don’t see that as an enterprise defined. I do understand what you are talking about though. If you start entrepreneurship, you become an entrepreneur but I never started mine like that. For example, I don’t have to open branches nation wide. There are certain things you basically need for a business like this to thrive. Give me technology and power, my business will thrive because it is about ideas. I only need a conducive environment to be able to generate ideas and I will make money.
Ease of doing business
The ease of doing business in this country couldn’t have been appreciable and I enumerated all these challenges. It is not. The situation is not conducive. That is why I talked about a conducive environment. There is a lot we can do in this country. Let government do its own part and by so doing, government will even make money. Even businesses will thrive. That is when government can generate more money through taxes. Imagine Lagos having six mainland bridges. But we only have two of such today. What happens if the bridge is blocked today? What will happen to the over two million people on the Island?
Government intervention in SMEs
They know what to do and that is infrastructure. If power generation improves today, that will impact on the business environment tremendously. Look at what telecommunications has done to us. Imagine that you are still using midget today, without using your phone to record me. You would have to buy the midget, buy batteries and then buy the cassette but look at what technology has done. Imagine life without the technology of the GSM. Give us power. If power generation improves, it will impact on businesses.
You can also talk about the issue of transportation. If we can reduce the hours we spend in Lagos traffic, we will be fine. One spends an average of four to five hours in Lagos traffic everyday and people don’t get to do their businesses with ease. Imagine what that would mean for businesses. I can go on and on. Government needs to do something about it.
Long term goals
The vision is very clear. It is for us to be the most sought after PR agency in Africa. This will require a whole lot of things like the human resources and the tools that we use. The thought process, the services and the value chain will also help us achieve what we have envisioned for ourselves. We haven’t faired badly, over the years, but we are far better than our peers. When you are better than your peers, that is when you have the competitive advantage.