Alumnus of the month
Andrew Osayemi (BA Economics 2002-05) was on track for a high-flying career in finance before he decided to follow his true passion. Since setting up his own TV production company he has gone from strength to strength making programmes for the huge (and neglected) African market.
How did you go from Warwick to work in the city trading at RBS to running a TV production company ?
I graduated from Warwick in 2005 and then immediately joined RBS Financial Markets starting on their graduate trading programme. I then moved on to their foreign exchange fwds trading division in London and got promoted to a senior trading role in New York for two years. On my return to the UK in 2009 the banking landscape had changed and in 2010 I decided to leave and start my own business. Funnily enough the itch for starting my own business came from taking a few courses at Warwick Business School during my final year at university.
I had always been fascinated by opportunities in Africa due to my Nigerian heritage so I decided to start a business that could target that market. My business partner (Debra Odutuyo) and I could see the growth and success of Nollywood films and decided to replicate the same with African TV. There are over 50 countries in Africa that all have their own independent TV markets. They are desperate for more African-focused TV content so we knew we would always have buyers as long as we created good quality content. We saw a gap in the market that there was no comedy series that focused on an African family living abroad which is how we came to develop ‘Meet The Adebanjos’, a British Nigerian family living in London.
You studied economics at Warwick, how does this help you in your career?
It gave me a solid understanding of economic policy and markets which helped me quickly adapt to working on the trading floor. It also helped me build a network of people who like me moved to working in the city after studying economics at Warwick. This proved very useful when gaining my internship and subsequent full time employment as I was placed on a desk where a former Warwick economic alumnus was also present and he proved very helpful to me.
In terms of building a business like I'm doing at the moment, knowledge of economics helps me build the company for the long term rather than focused on short term gain.
What are the most challenging parts of your work?
In my venture into TV there was no blueprint I could follow. No mentor in the UK I could call on as the TV industry in Africa is very different from the west. So my co-founder and I had to build everything from scratch - from learning about the production process to raising finance to flying out to all parts of Africa to build up relationships with TV stations to figuring out a business model that makes it all work. It's been a long and hard journey but I have loved every minute of it.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
That I have been able to go into two completely different professions and have success at both! I grew up in a council estate in Peckham, South London so just getting to university was a big achievement for me. So to try my hand at trading and the TV business is just a dream come true. Another thing I am proud of is the success and reach my TV shows have had. Our flagship show Meet the Adebanjos is watched by millions across Africa, has aired on the top terrestrial channels across Africa and in South Africa where it was shown on the national TV broadcaster SaBc it was actually in the top 3 comedies ratings when it aired.
What drives you?
Proving people wrong and doing things people say can't be done. I remember in 2001 when applying for universities, I rejected all my universities offers at the time because I thought I could do better than what had been predicted by my A level teachers. It was a massive gamble that put a lot of pressure on me on my final exams but I exceeded the grades, took a gap year and got accepted into Warwick and the rest is history. I have taken this attitude into trading and now in building MTA Productions.
What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
Not sure. I could say money but that comes and goes. I just take one day at a time and have grown up with the attitude to enjoy the present because tomorrow is not guaranteed
What was your favorite aspect of your Economics course?
I loved the labour economics module and also some of the business school courses. I also really enjoyed the people who I met on the course many of whom I remain friends with to this day. I lived for two years with two friends from my course, Sam and Magatte, and I can truly say that they were two of the most enjoyable years of my life.
What would you tell someone thinking of studying at Warwick?
That you get to have an amazing time as the education is first class and also the social life. I would say get involved with as many societies as possible as it allows you to meet so many people who could be very useful to you in the future.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?
Studied harder lol.
How do you balance work and life?
I work hard and I play hard. And I try and make work as fun as possible so I am always having a good time.
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I love playing basketball so it would probably be being an international superstar basketball player. I am now 31 so my window may have gone but I can still dream!
Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
I want to be running the equivalent of Universal Studios in Africa. There is so much potential in Africa and I just want to be part of its growth and ultimate success. We currently have a semi base in Nigeria and South Africa but we aim to be fully based there within the next two years.
What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
A notepad, an iPod and sun cream
What are your favourite memories of your years at Warwick?
Loads of moments:
- Student union - loads of memorable nights from top banana to soul nation!
- Seeing Amy Winehouse perform live at the Arts Centre in 2003 before she was famous. Never heard of her before and got dragged along by a friend but was immediately captivated by her voice. One of my best ever concerts.
- Being a club dj and promoter for three years. I used to be one of the resident DJs at Club Colleseum in Coventry.
- Being ACS president
- All the jokes and adventures me and my friends had on and around campus. Each year was truly special.
Do you have any advice for new graduates?
Make as many friends as possible by joining loads of societies. When you leave uni who you know is very important so if you build a strong network from Warwick you will be well equipped in the future. The Warwick network has helped me so much in the past from helping me get a job to investing my company.
Also enjoy all the facilities the uni has to offer - from the sports facilities to the Arts Centre where I saw Amy Winehouse. Lastly try to use the opportunity to meet and hang out with people who are different than you. It is very easy to only hang out with the people from your college or home town but then you will miss out on meeting people from all over the world which Warwick is famous for.
Andrew Osayemi: the facts
|Lives:||Based in London but travels a lot across Africa for MTA Productions|
BA Economics 2002-05 University of Warwick
|Career:||2010 to present - co-founder and Managing Director MTA Productions (www.mtaproduction.com)
2005-10 - RBS Finanical markets - foreign exchange trading/ interest rates swaps trading London/New York