As someone who never leaves his decisions up to fate, Partha Kabi (pictured), managing director at MediaCom Indonesia, often makes it a point to carefully think through and weigh the pros and cons to every matter. This may be the reason why he is in the media agency scene – he explained in a recent conversation with Marketing Interactive.
Kabi joined Maxus Indonesia as its MD in 2011. Under his leadership, Maxus Indonesia saw multiple new business wins, developed a wide portfolio of new and innovative products and services. Before Maxus, Kabi was MD of ZenithOptimedia in Jakarta from 2007 to 2011 and general manager – media at Draft FCB Indonesia from 2002 to 2007.
He first started his career in the media industry 24 years ago at FCB in Mumbai, back when media departments of advertising agencies had just started branching out as independent entities into media specialists, he said. Eight years later, he moved to FCB Indonesia to set up its media division and has spent 16 years in the market since.
How do you describe your management style?
I always like to start with a vision and then discuss with the team to define steps to achieve that vision. In my experience, this sets a strong foundation and gets every member of the team to think and walk in the same direction. I strongly believe that if you don’t plan, it will never get implemented. From then on, I have complete trust and faith in my team to innovate and execute.
My doors are always open and you will see me adapting to different styles depending on the situation and the problem that walks in through my door. I can be the patient listener, the problem solver, the mentor, the tutor, the advisor, the coach, the motivator and sometimes the aunt agony as well. I also oscillate between being a driver to being a doer. I have no qualms rolling up my sleeve and getting my hands dirty. In fact, I rarely get the opportunity so I cherish and enjoy it whenever I do.
Agency life is all about dealing with people and there is no ‘one style that fits all’.
Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?
There have been many people who have and continue to inspire and influence my life in different ways. I look up to my father and my elder brother for their ability, conviction, perseverance and confidence to chase their dreams and their absolute passion and dedication to their craft despite all odds. Always striving for excellence and not taking the easy short cut to success.
I was inspired by my basketball coach in school for being absolutely devoted to the art of training. Come rain or thunder, he would be at the basketball court without fail everyday after school hours and wait patiently till 5:00p.m; whether anyone turned up for practice or not.
I will forever be indebted to Nandini Dias (my first boss) for being the perfect mentor and patiently guiding and teaching me the basics of media and preparing me for corporate life.
What inspires you the most?
I am inspired by the films made on biopics of famous sportspersons and their determination to achieve their goals come what may. I am also deeply inspired by the book Outliers – The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
There have been many proud moments. On the work front its being recognised for various industry awards. On a personal front, some of my proudest moments were when I was crowned Student of The Year in University, seeing my brother (who is a theatre veteran and a film actor) on the cinema screen for the first time and when my daughter worked her way to get selected in the world’s number one university for hospitality.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Our industry is all about people. So some of the toughest moments in my job is regarding people. Losing good talent; managing conflict in the team and the larger organisation and managing client relationships at all levels would probably rank as the toughest. That’s the reason I admire the MediaCom values of “People First, Better Results”.
I am truly inspired by the Thomas-Kilman conflict modes theory. From assertiveness (importance of the issue) to cooperativeness (importance of relationship) and how one should react to situations as a manager when interacting with people.
What has been the harshest thing said to you?
Get out of the room!
There was this meeting with a senior client and he was questioning my team’s hard work. He was trying to make up numbers to prove that the team had not made any effort. It came to a point where I had to gently tell him that he was twisting facts to prove his point, which was unfair to my team. I will always stand up for my team if I genuinely believe they have done their best.
What do you do in your free time?
My wife and I do miss our daughter who is now in university, in a different country. I chat with her on FaceTime whenever I get some free time everyday. I also spend time with my son who is getting into grade 12, to guide him with potential university choices for next year.
My wife and I love going for movies as well as planning holidays together. She has built a beautiful terrace garden in our apartment and I spend a lot of time with her there, over a cup of tea on weekend afternoons. I also play for my cricket team on weekends when we have our scheduled matches.
How do you ensure a proper work life balance?
I like to plan everything so it becomes easier for me to manage my time between work and personal life. I am also fortunate to be married to the most loving homemaker. Everything at home is just perfect thanks to Farida (my wife). I have a great team at office. I guess that is the secret of a harmonious work life balance.
What is your favourite vacation spot?
As a family, all four of us love travelling. Thirteen years ago when my younger one was old enough to travel, the kids made us promise to take them to all the Disney Adventure parks in the world. That kick started our travelling spree and made us travel to some of the best holiday spots in the world.
But my personal favourites will be New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway for the fun of driving in a car with my family and enjoying the breathtakingly beautiful scenery.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Never be afraid to ask questions and dare to be the first to try something new. People will remember you not for everything that you did but for that one thing that you did different.
What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2018?
To a large degree our media industry has been commoditised.
Pricing has taken precedence over everything that we do. Client-agency relationships are built and nurtured with a lot of effort, which then develops into mutual trust and respect for each other’s capabilities. That creates spectacular work and drives business.
Why is it then that every two to three years, even healthy client-agency relationships are put through the scanner and evaluated primarily through a pricing lens? That is something I would love to see change.