Being 28 in a corporate world can be frightening in a way, not because of efficiency, but because your abilities will constantly be undermined.
Osawaru Obaseki, an astute businessman and philanthropist is the MD/CEO of Barseks & Co, a Recycling, Construction, Agro consulting/ acquisition and Trading Company.
The 28 year old International Relations graduate of a North American University decided to return home to set up his company because he believes that aside Edo state being the Center Hub of Nigeria, there is a lot of human capital and resources yet to be tapped.
He is totally against human trafficking and those going abroad in search of their greener pastures because Nigeria is too loaded and blessed to be abandoned.
In this interview with Omamuzo Efidhere, he talks about his passions, opportunities that lie ahead and the great potentials of the agricultural sector.
Tell us a bit about your background?
My name is Osawaru Obaseki, I am from Oredo Local Government Area of Edo, I live in the great, ancient and historic city of Benin, and I come from one of the greatest families in the state. I was born in Lagos on the 8th day of March 1991, where I had my early educational background then moved to Abuja later to finish up my secondary school. Then I studied international relations in a North American university and finished in 2011.
Work experience and positions held?
In 2012 I moved back to Abuja, Nigeria and I worked for a company called Mab Global which was owned by a big friend I worked in public relations because I was bold and good with people. I have good communication skills which really aided me in engaging. After that I moved to Benin City in 2016 where I was head of communications and social media strategist for Godwin Obaseki (the current Governor of the state) Campaign Team. In 2017 I partnered with an old time friend of 19 years to work with his company which is Farmforte Agro Allied Solutions an agricultural firm till date, I handle public relations and acquisitions
I received an outstanding personnel award from Mab global in 2014 for my little contribution in a short while for selling the most houses in a year.
How did your company start, Why was there a need for such a company, what motivated you to start?
I am the MD/CEO of Barseks & Co we do Recycling, construction and Agro consulting/ acquisition and trading. And the reason I started this company was because I could feel the potentials in which various family members possessed which wasn’t tapped so I decided to start something to be able to help not just myself but also elevate my family members and friends in various ways and be able to make them explore their potentials.
Why did you choose Benin City, Edo State as your base instead of Lagos, Abuja and how did it grow to what it is today?
First of all I am from Benin City and there is a lot of human capital and resources which are yet to be tapped. Edo state is the center hub of Nigeria. I would rather have my people first at heart before I spread in to the other parts of the country.
Who are your core clientele, how difficult or easy, was it employing staffs convincing clients etc.?
At the moment for a growing company I have just one client for agriculture which is Farmforte and for the Recycling Chronos pride. These are two fast growing companies which I am part of from the scratch and with the rate and capacity in which we are going in few years’ time by God’s Grace we would control the value chain. It is better to have little startups with potential values and prospects than have a lot that would not make you sleep at night.
So far so good we have been able to handle Human Resources properly and for a growing company there is a lot of decisions one would have to make today that will either make or break your future,
What is it like running your own company, these past years, describe your typical day?
My typical day, if I am not on the move to different locations in Benin where we have our farms or factories to make sure everything is going smooth; I am on the drawing board with my partners to plan the next big move.
What is the most challenging aspect of running your own company in Nigeria and how have you been able to handle it?
Challenges are what make a man I do not think there is any challenging aspect of running my company because I have the best team and we were already prepared for the storm. I thank God it has been smooth the whole time.
Entrepreneurship has its ups and down, do you ever think of quitting?
Oh yes I think of quitting every other day taking my small money and enjoying my life, but what happens when it finishes and you do not have a legacy or anything to your name, I am still very young so the journey is a long one.
As a young entrepreneur winning in your chosen career, have you ever felt the need to conform to some societal expectations?
From the kind of family I come from there is always societal expectations and growing up till date we have never gone below the table nor seen my family go that way too. There are always expectations from either your family or your peers but sometimes I do my own thing regardless.
If you have to start all over again what is the one thing you will do differently and what is that thing you will avoid?
If I had to start over again I would not change anything. The lessons we learn today are the values of tomorrow but from the past till the future I would avoid showing off or the spotlight.
What would you say is the unique formular that has aided your success, where do you see your company in the next five years?
Our greatest assets are goodwill and communication which has brought about value in one way or the other. And in five years like I earlier said, we would be on the top of the value chain not just in the country but in Africa and the world.
Who has inspired you the most in business and why?
So I look up to two people at the moment and I have no regrets. Godwin Obaseki who happens to be the governor of Edo state because he has handled governance like a business and makes sure it succeeds regardless what people want; it did not make him deviate from his purpose and has shown the true meaning of leadership. My brother my friend and my only boss Osazuwa Osayi who is the CEO of Farmforte I could write a book as to why he is an inspiration not just to me but our peers and generation.
What is the best advice you have received as an entrepreneur?
Study what a billionaire does; it may make you a millionaire.
Have you ever been in a situation where people undermine you because of your age?
First of all I look way older than my age so it is really difficult for people to tell how old I am. I have been undermined several times as to my capability of doing several things not because of my age but because at some point in my life I showed people I was not as serious as I am now with life and they had a wrong perspective of me but I am to blame for that and because my approach to handle things are different from the norm but I can tell you for free I have seen it more effective than the usual way and that is what makes me unique as an individual.
What stirred your interest in Agriculture, what do you think about the practice here in Nigeria and how can it be improved?
Four years back if anyone told me I will be in the Agro space I am sure I would have gotten into an argument with the person and that is because I did not know about it. I had to key into my friends dream by first trying to use the powers bestowed upon me to search for areas which needed development in the state and had farmlands, so I started searching and luckily for me at the time the governor had an Agropreneur program up and running so it was pretty easy. I feel the potentials of the agricultural sector have not been fully explored by individuals because people do not believe in it and are not patient because of its yield time. The current administration under President Muhammad Buhari encourages a lot about agriculture and the success rate is superb. I believe we would get there.
Let’s talk about your philanthropic projects; in what ways do you give back to society?
My dad always says; I will do the best I can for as long as I can which is also a principle I have grown into. Growing up he was a cheerful giver and had open hands not just to his family but to everybody who needed help even if it was detrimental to him. I do little give away for startups and currently built a school in Benin for a community which was privately funded by Farmforte. By 2020 I believe our CSR (corporate Social Responsibility) strength will go beyond that.
Have you always been this philanthropic or it was inspired by someone/something?
Giving back has always been something that has been on my ‘to do list’. I am open, kind, and affectionate, I try my possible best to help people who I know are in dire situations.
Are you a member of any NGO’s, are you supporting any foundation?
I aspire to be a United Nations Ambassador for SDG’s and my primary focus will be Edo state and beyond that.
Any plan of delving into politics in the future?
In the nearest future I might nurse political ambitions but at this point I do not want to be carried away with political activities. Besides where I am from there is a little political in house battle that I would like to distant myself from as much as possible.
What is the problem of Nigeria?
We know the problems of Nigeria are beyond this phase but I pray for a better Nigeria and the leaders we vote in. We need more credible people to represent us at every level. A few represents us properly and I believe we would get there.
What is your take on human trafficking, Nigerians risking their lives in search of greener pastures abroad, cultism and yahoo, money rituals?
Nigeria is too loaded and blessed for us to abandon. I am totally against human trafficking and those going abroad in search of their greener pastures. There are a lot of untapped resources we possess; we are the giant of Africa. The people who go into these things are weak and in search of quick wealth. I have been tempted to take my degree and move out of the country but I believe too much in Nigeria and I hope everybody sees it and quickly get into a program and be patient with the process. Things can only get better all we have to do is be patient and believe.
Who are those you look up to for inspiration?
I look up to God for inspiration
Which is your favourite sport, favourite club?
Sadly I am not into sports , but if I do it will be football and Manchester United
What is the secret of maintaining your looks, is it good genes, dieting or lifestyle, how would you describe your personal style?
The secret of maintaining my looks is that I rest a lot, if I work for five days I am resting for the next five days and my style is also unique, I switch up real quick.
When you dress which image do you project?
I have my days I look good and other days I just do not care, my excuse will be the nature of my work… No one ever looks good coming from the farm or factory.
Any fashion or beauty routine you observe?
I do not have a beauty routine but I have been advised to do so. My glow is natural.
What is one fashion item you cannot do without?
Perfumes, I have to smell nice at all times
What motto do you live by?
Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.