KAREEM TEJUMOLA POPULARLY REFEREED TO AS ‘UNCLE TEJ’ IS ONE OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF MARKETING RESEARCH IN NIGERIA AND HAS DONE SO MUCH TO PROMOTE THE BUSINESS IN AFRICA. THE DOYEN OF MARKETING RESEARCH IN NIGERIA TURNS 80 AND SHARES SOME MOMENTS WITH RESEARCH INTELLIGENCE.
Congratulations on your 80th birthday Sir.
What was your staying power when you were active in the industry?
God’s Grace, simplicity and the people around me. Marketing Research is the job I enjoy so much and passionate about. It’s not the money. Well money counts a lot but really when you say what kept me going it is because I have great passion for Market research, otherwise, like many of my colleagues in those days, I couldn’t have gone into marketing research only without adding advertising, public relations, product distribution and other things.
I had the opportunity. I remember that I came into the market when distribution of beer- and all sorts was a great moneymaker. I knew all the relevant people in the top manufacturing industries like Unilever, Nigerian Breweries and Guinness. Research could not have given me the money product distribution would have given me.
Just to take their stock; I even didn’t need to sell. I just needed to have a warehouse; get all the stocks and just distribute to the wholesalers. But that would have taken away what I had in mind. Even where I was coming from, I used to challenge them that there’s no really a thorough Research Agency in Nigeria and that I wanted to provide one. That’s why I said work and passion.
So, what do I mean by the people! Really, if I didn’t get the support that I got from people working for me, I wouldn’t have been able to make it at that time.
RMS was founded as a close family relating market research business. Hence everyone working at the company was very close hereby calling each other by first name or pet name, I am popularly referred to as “Uncle Tej”. My office door was always open to everyone, including the security, cleaners, interviewers, executives, for consultation either work related or not.
On many occasions, executives had slept two days with me in the office. When my wife at home thought there was something fishy going on and I couldn’t be sleeping in the office, “I said madam, there is something you could help us with in the office She thought I was joking, and then she came. The next night she would never come again because there was no mat to sleep on. Then, the organization RMS knew its entire staff and cared for them. We were brothers and sisters. The problem at home is a problem shared in the office. So was mine. We always looked forward to Christmas for group parties and family get-together.
How do you feel that the small agency that you started is now the biggest research firm, not only in Nigeria, but also in the whole of West Africa, how does that make you feel?
I feel proud and I feel good. But I must say this, when you read textbooks you will see there must be a focus or certain objectives in business. You must follow the objective so that you can achieve the aim. My own objective was to have the best technical and biggest agency in Nigeria and West Africa. That has been then it won’t be like this. I didn’t have the objective of becoming a mega company across Africa as we just suddenly became. I had the objective of becoming number one, probably when you rate us in terms of the most efficient, the most intelligent agency across West Africa. I am just proud about that. I give lectures on marketing research in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and in all these, commendations were immense.
And I thank God for taking us this far … our future is indeed very brighter
At 80, you are still very strong. Looking back over the years, is there anything you feel like correcting in the industry that you didn’t do?
I enjoyed all in my own time. I didn’t see anything wrong. I didn’t see anything within the industry or outside the industry. However, those days, some people were unprofessional, but our steadfastness took us far and we’re happy today as a company.
People call you the Doyen of marketing research in Nigeria. How does that make you feel? They say you are citizen number one in marketing research.
I feel good although I think what they mean by that is ‘Uncle Tej’ is probably one of the first and one of the greatest educators in marketing research from Nigeria.
– Over 50% of the marketing research agencies in Nigeria are ex-products of RMS.
– Over 25% of marketing research practitioners in Nigeria were trained by RMS locally and extended course in the U.K and USA universities and business schools. The calibers of trained staff include Research executives and Data Processing personnel.
– All RMS Executives/Data processing personnel are given extended local training, which includes organizing lectures rendered by professional practitioners globally.
– I also give numerous lectures on practice of marketing research in Nigeria organizations, colleges, like Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
– A founding member of PAMRO and AMRA.
Training in RMS is core and the impact is phenomenal.
Stella Okpala is a good example of the pay for trainings, immediately on her return from her last training on Advance Technique in Qualitative Research, she was asked to attend a pitch meeting on a project from a foreign client, competing with bigger and probably more experienced agencies from abroad. Her performance at our presentation on how we intended to execute the project was outstanding & successful, which was the yield from the training. We won the job and for 2 weeks I couldn’t stop talking. I’m so proud of her, up until tomorrow. laying my plan.
At 80, how do you feel? Do you feel fulfilled or do you have any regret to share with us sir?
Everybody would have regret sometimes, everybody would feel fulfilled, but if you ask me, I would say yes to both, I feel very fulfilled, but I don’t feel old. I never feel old, I never. I don’t even see myself as 80. I am being frank with you. Glory be to God for keeping me fit.
You don’t look 80 at all!
I am but I don’t feel it in my own mind to say this is an old man. I still feel I can do most, not all, most things I have been doing at my young age. The praise goes to God.
You see, people make themselves look unnecessarily old, when you start segmenting the generation you should relate with. I mix freely with both young and old. Understanding the generation you’re in is key. I always update myself with the information they have and discuss with them when I find myself in their midst. The difference between some older people and me is relating and creating that generational bridge while they create the gap.
I went to somewhere one day; I was wearing a red shoe and people were looking at me; I didn’t understand the look because I was like any other ordinary person in that place. And somebody said, look at your age…I said what age? I said, who told you my age? How could you wear this? I asked, is there anything wrong with what I am wearing?
The only thing I cannot wear is distressed clothes or jeans …. but most things I can wear. I have a daughter at home who is growing up now, and always prefers me taking her shopping and not the mother because I know the trends in wears for her age better than the mum. Sometimes when I went on one of my trips, and I bought jeans for her. Her mother is always very surprised. And would always say something, but I would tell her that I went to the shop to buy it myself. She would say how do you know. I would say , you watch television, you watch the people on the street, you see all what they were wearing, How could you go and be getting what I may call torn clothes for this little girl growing up, and so that girl is always asking me, not her mother, to buy her clothing so she doesn’t want her mother to buy her anything. It is her father, not because the father has money to buy, but because I know her taste. I won’t disappoint her, and that’s why I said you must keep yourself young.