Meet the CEOs: DM Pratama’s Abhay Kapoor

Abhay Kapoor has held the role of group managing director in DM Pratama for the past 15 years, managing a team which is not afraid to speak up. That comfort level, where the team expresses their views without any inhibitions or fear, is how the agency has been actively germinating its best ideas, according to him.

He explained: “I trust that lousy ideas are the breeding ground of brilliance hence, I try to create an environment where even the junior most team members can feel confident to express their ideas.”

In a conversation with Marketing Interactive, Kapoor described his management style as a mix of democratic and demonstrative. Irrespective of the hierarchy levels, he would analyse inputs without any biases, before making a joint decision with the team on what is the best idea. He also makes sure the team feels involved, engaged and appreciated.

I always walk the talk. I try to work along side the team so that they do not feel the absence of a mentor, should they need one.

Read more from him below.

Marketing Interactive: Who was the mentor who influenced you the most and how?

I had the fortune of working with some of the brightest brains in the communication industry during my early days of advertising. Although at each stage, I learned a lot from my colleagues, two people who really mentored me and left an indelible mark on my professional psyche were Mohammad Khan, the then chairman and head of creative at Enterprise Lowe, India and my immediate boss at that time, late Andy Halve who was the head of strategy at the same agency.

I learned from them the leap creative can get by a sound strategy to create a disruptive campaign as the two were masters of their craft. Both these gentlemen were passion in motion and taught all of us youngsters the power of great work and how the billings, margins and bottom line are the by-products of a brilliant idea. My stint at Enterprise, under the mentorship of these two great thinkers helped me transform into a passionate professional and a keen learner that I still am today.

Marketing Interactive: What has been the proudest moment in your career?

Within a few months of joining then Pratama Bozell, I realised that we were on our way out of that affiliation as Bozell and FCB were merging globally. In less than a year of my joining, we became an independent set-up, DM Pratama group, with almost half of the aligned and other businesses being shifted to FCB. A new country coupled with the splitting of the partnership and loss of business needed guts of steel to lead.

We started building up the agency as an independent entity and within two years, we not only moved from being the seventh largest to fifth largest agency group in terms of capitalised billings in Indonesia and won Agency of the Year Awards. This was awarded by one of the most prestigious industry publications at that time. Walking to the stage with my team to get that award was the proudest moment of my career because we not only survived the adversity but came out winners.

Marketing Interactive: What inspires you the most?

At the cost of sounding cliche, I would like to say, life inspires me the most.

The moment I get out of the advertising professional’s avatar and walk out on the streets of life as a father, husband or a friend, I find inspiration all around. When talking to friends about their losses and wins, in sports or business, I get inspiration on leadership. When interacting with my son and daughter, I get insights into the changing world of Gen Z. When interacting with my wife, I discover the challenges of mid-life romance (haha!). I believe there is no better teacher than life and there is no greater inspiration than brio.

Marketing Interactive: What’s the toughest part of your job?

Most difficult part of any leader’s role in communication business is recruiting and retaining talent. As an industry, anyway we are suffering with shortage of  good talent but now ad agencies are fast becoming a favourite  poaching ground for consultancies, eCommerce and digital platforms. This has made finding talent and retaining them even tougher. We at DM Pratama are finding new ways to deal with these challenges including focusing on recruiting more and more fresh blood out of college but this remains the toughest part of my job especially in digital space.

Marketing Interactive: What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2019?

The competition in our industry is getting nasty and unpredictable. Hence, in order to survive, the agencies are bending backwards on all accounts including their remuneration. Everyday, we hear of a new low at which an established agency is ready to sell their services as client’s procurement department starts pushing more.

I wish we can start valuing ourselves better this year and start sticking to better remuneration standards.

Marketing Interactive: What do you do in your free time?

I love sports and chilling with friends. I play tennis, gym and run at least five times a week in the mornings. On weekends and evenings, I love to spend time with my friends and family. Going to the movies used to be one of my favourites with family, but off late, binge-watching on Netflix is crawling into that slot.

Marketing Interactive: How do you ensure a proper work life balance?

Over the last 20 years, in whichever country and office I worked at, I have tried to ensure that I stay very close to my workplace, so that minimum time is spent on commuting. In fact, I would jokingly tell my employers that I will join them if they could provide me accommodation from where if I leave for work at 8:25 am, I should reach the office at 8:30am. The time that I save on commuting is channelled to 90 minutes of “me-time” in the mornings with my sports and gymming. In the evenings, I get a fresh start with my family too, reaching home within 10 mins even after working late.

Marketing Interactive: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

We are going through some very challenging times as an industry. This is the best and the worst time to be here. The best because we are at embarking upon an exciting journey of the whole new digital space and worst because nobody can predict how the future of our industry will be. So my advice to a newcomer would be to start with an open mind to learn new things every day and enjoy the uncertainty, relish the unknown.

Marketing Interactive: With all the mergers in the ad agency market, where do you think the future lies for independent agencies in Indonesia?

Survival for independent agencies has been difficult globally and more so in Indonesia. The life span of an independent agency in Indonesia has not been more than 15-20 years. I feel the reason for that is that independent agencies are even more personality-driven than the rest of the industry put together because when pitched against big networks with global clout, that’s all that they can sell. However, that recipe for success becomes their pitfall. If something goes wrong with the founders or they intend to hang the boots, the whole agency collapses. With 33 years,we  are possibly the longest surviving and thriving sizeable independent agency in Indonesia.

Unlike others, we have built ourselves as an institution, not as a shadow of an individual.

With the new trend of  valuation mind set we will see the life span of the independent agencies getting shorter and shorter. More independent agencies will be built to sell rather than succeed .

Marketing Interactive: One tip for independent agencies?

Coming from the era when agencies were built for passion and not with the five year exiting plan, I would suggest the independent agencies to have a clear vision of their future and above all, exercise financial prudence from day one.

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