Mr. Is’haq Modibbo Kawu has been the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Abuja-based Word, Sound and Vision (WSV) Multimedia Limited, a complete media outfit that cuts across print, radio and television.
Succinctly tagged ‘The Complete Company’, WSV apart from core media, is also into research, training and consultancy. In this chat with Financial Vanguard in Abuja, Kawu talks about what inspired him to start WSV, the challenges and his dreams for the company.
Having graduated top of his class in mass communications at the undergraduate level, Modibbo Kawu was given the university’s award for the best student.
Thereafter, he obtained a master’s degree in political science and have worked in journalism and broadcasting for 37 years before establishing WSV.
Said Kawu: “I have worked for Radio Nigeria, reported for Radio France International, Radio Netherlands and BBC World Service. I was a pioneer member of staff of Radio Kwara, pioneer General Manager of Kwara State Television Authority and editor of Daily Trust Newspaper. I was also Chairman of the Editorial Board.” It was, therefore, not surprising when in 2011, having traversed the entire length and breadth of the industry, he decided to build as it were, a one-stop shop for the media.
“I left in 2011 to start Word, Sound and Vision (Multimedia) Limited and the whole idea was to put together under one roof everything I have done in all the media, as well as add new things – marketing communications, event marketing, internet journalism etc, as well as research and consultancy. That is why we say that WSV is a multimedia company.
We want to be able to add value in all the areas of media, provide platforms for service at various levels and then provide a strong training platform for media today.
When you listen to radio, watch television or see articles written by people in the newspapers, a lot is very deficient so we feel there is a niche that our company can productively engage our community in and with, to be able to add value and improve the quality of journalism and broadcasting.
We also want to do productions, documentaries, provide platforms to record music, videos and all that, and then do research, opinion polls, perception index analysis, statistical analysis, focus group discussions etc. So we want to be a one-stop shop for the multi-dimensional challenges associated with media work in the 21st Century for clients in different areas of social existence,”
he said, adding: “We have installed a sound studio, probably one of the best anywhere; we have platforms to edit, a language laboratory, a creative hub where we bring in people from different media background so that together, they can provide solutions coming from the different backgrounds each one brings to the job.
We have a platform of graphics and then online facilities. Our television studio is almost ready. We intend to also do something in newspaper as well as magazine. So it is a holistic venture.”
Speaking on challenges faced by businesses in Nigeria, Kawu said: “Right from when I was eight years old, my father used to tell me that every true beginning in life is very difficult so I knew that it was never going to be easy.
The whole idea of this company has been in my head since 1987 but the company was not registered until a few years ago and we did not start functioning as a company as such until a year ago. It is a very challenging business environment.
When I was starting, one of the people I respect a lot in this country said to me: ‘Modibbo, I have to praise your courage but Nigeria is very hostile to honest business.’ The business environment is very tough no doubt, but we have depended absolutely on the goodwill of a lot of people who have helped us through the teething phase. It is a very gradual process.
It is not often in the media world that one has had the opportunity to have done radio, tv and newspaper. A lot of times, people have either done electronics and never touched print and vice-versa. I have been very lucky to have done everything, working for some of the best media organisations in the world. I think all of that provided the basis for what we have done.
“It is very tough trying to do business here but it is even tougher trying to do what has not been done before. People have either done radio or television or newspaper.
Now you have somebody being as presumptuous or audacious as we are, trying to do everything under one roof, it is not easy. Like I said, I come from a background where I have been told from day one that nothing comes easy and you know the blow that does not break your back strengthens it, so we are trying to show that we have some spine,” he stated.
Another challenge is the low quality of labour force. “I have been aware of that for a very long time. I saw that practically as the editor of Daily Trust Newspaper.
The quality of graduates coming out of the school system leaves a lot to be desired but what organisations have to do is to invest a lot of money in training. We plan to do a lot of training. We started with an in-house seminar for the staff when we were taking off last year and we are hoping that as we begin to stabilise, we send our staff to different institutions in the country and hopefully, abroad.
I was reading an interview with the founder of Phillips Consulting on their 20th anniversary and what struck me was what he said about training people who might just move away.
He said the good thing is that when you train people properly, those that will leave would have taken away your work ethos and become your ambassadors wherever they go and I believe in that very strongly. I believe that if you train people, even if they move away, you have not lost anything because you have assisted the growth of your own country by helping to grow certain individuals who are really good quality staff.”
Speaking on the number of employees, Kawu said: “We (my wife and I) run a school in Kaduna. We also have a school in Ilorin. So now, I am employing close to 50 people in the different endeavours.
In the multimedia area, we are about 20 and as I said, because we are trying to do so many things, we would eventually want to begin to make money and employ people at other levels. WVS eventually would stabilise at a point where we will have between 35 and 50 members of staff doing different areas of media in the long-term but right now, we are providing this modest opening for people.
And then we are going to have platforms of engagements with other consultants who come on short-term basis to work on projects with us so they are going to be part of the database of experts who work with us on periodic assignments.
“We hope that in five years, we should have completely stabilized and be touching the lives of people all over Nigeria and beyond because we are thinking in terms of partnerships within and outside the country. We hope that we would also have our own radio and television channels, newspaper as well as magazine and continue to provide services and training.
It is a holistic thing that nobody has ever done. We are going to be on the lips of people all over the country where media is concerned and a lot of people who knew me when I went to work early in broadcasting will remember seeing aspects of my life from that level and later on, as a columnist and they will also see this side of me as a complete media person who has straddled every aspect of media and who is giving back to society that he loves very much.
I think our country has tremendous capacity for change and development and I have always advocated change and development and I believe that WVS will be the harbinger of the progressive Nigeria that we believe will satisfy the intersts of all the people in this lovely country.”