Many Nigerian millennials grew up reading comic books watching tv animation shows that featured toon characters that looked nothing like Africans. The characters had blonde or curly hairs, white skinned like the Snow whites and Cinderellas, wore ball gowns, and attended tea parties, and generally indulged in activities that the Nigerian child could not relate with. While it was merely entertainment for most of us, it became a burden in the heart of a few, and decades later, they would put their dreams out on the market place.
Founders of Panaramic Entertainment, Tunji Anjorin, Oriteme Banigo and Rotimi Anjorin established Panaramic entertainment in 2007 to tell the Nigerian story via comic books and cartoon animations. Think about having cartoon characters like Amina, Bolanle, Amadi, Yusufu and other names and characters you can relate with.
Speaking in an interview, Preisdent and Cofounder, Tunji Anjorin said;
“All my life watching cartons and reading comic books, and I never saw names that look like mine or my relatives or my fathers, it sparked some sort of curiousity in me. There has been a one-world system of telling stories from only one part of the world. It changed a bit when we started seeing productions like Black Panther, Black is King, Coming to America and so on, but really it was a case of producers and sellers from the western world telling our stories and selling them to us. At Panoramic entertainment, we thought we could do it differently, from our perspective. We want to own our stories, and tell them to the rest of the world, Because we will do it right since it is our own.”
As a media media production, distribution and original content development company, Panaramic entertainment started taking original content from Nigeria’s rich history and cultural heritage, and adapting them into easy to understand content for the local as well as the global audience. This would then take the form of comic books (also available in digital formats), and much later, Animations.
Stories cutting across different ethnic groups and states in Nigeria like Queen Amina of Zaria, Oduduwa, Eyo, Mary Slessor and Jaja of Opobo, among others, have also been adapted into comic books in print and digital format which are being used in schools across the country, and universities across the globe. Some of the contents are also being used by research institutions outside the continent.
The premier product was the 1897: The Bini kingdom, which was the first of the African historical comical series. This story was also adapted into an NFT called Bini Bronze, cultural exchange project, in line with technological advancement into that space.
Pushing through the early challenges
The business ran its first 10 years without external funding, and it was very much a challenge pulling through those years.
“We made use of existing resources such that we put together all the money each person had. We also got money from family and friends. Being privately-funded for almost a decade was our biggest challenge” Anjorin recounted.
Another early challenge the team had to deal with was getting information. Much as they were passionate about telling Nigeria’s history to the world, they would discover that not much of the oral history had been documented over the years. It was a herculean task getting accurate information and they had to largely explore oral history, speaking with elderly men from the relevant communities, history lecturers and professors in academic circles etc.
It became more practical to sometimes merge the slightly different accounts from the different sources into one rich story to be told to the world. When the Panaramic team started, they thought their core audience to be children and students, but as they progressed, it would become more obvious that Comic books and animations appeal across different generations.
“We queue up to go to Disneyworld to take photos and we pay for them. That is them having us in their pockets and monetising. Thankfully, due to the advancement and emergence of NFTs, we are raising awareness like through this Bini Bronze project. If at some point in time, the next generation of kids can see Box office movies and content about Nigeria getting the most views and pulling audience, we would have achieved our core aim” Anjorin noted.
It is a business that is serving the dual purpose of entertainment, education and even preservation of cultural heritage. From bootstrapping, the company has gone into other partnerships and projects to sustain financially as they progress. Patronage and bulk purchase of the comic books from schools also make for some encouragement and revenue.
Lessons for young entrepreneurs
Most big business ideas will require a partnership to push it through.
In an interview, Tunji Anjorin admits that the team has achieved more together than they each would have if they had chosen to go solo.
“I think we are stronger as a team than as individuals, so I wouldn’t rather be on my own. To succeed, you need the right team.”
Start before the market is ready
Panaramic entertainment started at a time when Nigerian comic books and animations were not an obvious need in the market. Perhaps a market survey at the time would not have shown a demand gap that needed to be filled. But they started, and developed and nurtured the idea.
“The market will not send out any notification that it is about to be ready. By the time you realise the market is ripe, it may be too late, as the people who never stopped preparing will beat you to it, when it comes to plucking the fruits from an already ripe industry.
See conflicts as an advantage
In a business of multiple partners (and even board of directors) as we find in Panaramic, there will be conflicting ideas, views and perspectives. Think of it as an advantage that allows the team to explore the best ideas from different people, rather than a clog in the wheel. Everyone may think differently, but so long as the sole interest is the success of the business, the best ideas will emerge out of every conflict.