Prashant Kumar on Entropia's hunt for hidden gems and not 'expensive mediocrity'

Senior partner Prashant Kumar (pictured), left IPG Mediabrands in 2016 to join Entropia when it was still in the beta phase. Two years after its launch, Entropia has bagged several well-known accounts such as Etika, Axiata Group and YTL Communications.

In a recent conversation with A+M, Kumar said that Entropia's journey as an independent agency has been "wonderful", adding that he believes the agency represents “world-class excellence” born in Malaysia wherever it goes. Having had close to two decades of industry experience and seen Entropia grow in popularity over the few years, Kumar told A+M that curiosity, agility, tenacity, creativity and playfulness are the traits that Entropia values and seeks in each hire.

"We have a huge preference for talent with growth mindset and a 'can do' attitude. There really is no place for cynical credit-usurping, blame-gaming, perception managing, arse licking, minimum effort optimisers and insecure turf lords," he said. Kumar added that Entropia adopts a 360-degree format when it comes to appraisals, and describes feedback to be a gift as it can trigger genuine introspection and reflection, spurring people to better themselves.

Given that data is the new currency today, Kumar is often on the look out for those with the talent to understand the difference between data and insight, and are able to link it to a deeper understanding of the real world. He added:

Find cheap geniuses rather than expensive mediocrity.

According to him, there are many paths to reach a position, such as being at the right time and right place, job hopping and being best buddies with search consultants. All these go towards building "expensive mediocrities", Kumar explained. Meanwhile, there are passionate and capable people who are either hidden or ignored, and Entropia is always on the hunt for these "hidden gems".

We love hidden gems who can be polished to shine and can be given a great culture and enabling ecosystem to do great things.

"As much as I have seen young stars fight a hard battle to earn their rise and discovered unforeseen capabilities in themselves, I have also seen 'short cut savvies’ fly high pre-maturely and burn like a phoenix. Our preference is for bringing together brilliance with hard work to create a secure, substantive and supremely confident sustainable arc of success," Kumar said.

A+M: What's Entropia's agency structure like?

I once saw a company organisational chart that had 22 directors and above title holders in a company of 40 people. It is insanely desperate. Beyond a point, it renders titles meaningless and can be highly confusing for talent.

We have only six levels top to bottom. We give consistent increments and bonuses, but promotions are special. When you get promoted, you feel truly honoured, because you have earned it and you can hold your own in front of any crowd. It gives you genuine satisfaction.

When we are trying to recruit from outside, it creates a challenge for us sometimes, but people who are smart they get it, and there are many who understand enough to not care about their former titles.

A+M: What are some things that turn you off completely?

Cynicism and silo mentality are a complete turn off. Also, we do not favour frequent job hoppers and "one-trick ponies". I would rather have a 7/10 talent who is committed and consistent, than an 8/10 talent who has never committed to any job in life, and is high maintenance. When we see the hunger and curiosity, we get deeply vested and ensure the rewards are ahead of their industry peer group.

The relationship with employees needs to go beyond employer-employee dynamics.

We have a strong affinity with loyal committed employees who would go beyond the normal for us, and we believe that the company must take a long term view of their career pathway built on high degree of trust and fairness, and help them bring the best out of their possibilities. So it is not just excellence, but consistency of excellence that counts towards making genuine leaders and superstars in the long term.

A+M: How can individuals succeed in this industry?

Ultimately how you do in your career is dependent on both your own performance and the company's. A great surfer requires to be good at what he does, but also needs a great wave. For Entropia, those who join the ride, keep the faith and fight the good fight will have extraordinary career paths. That’s the promise of Entropia we hold close to our hearts.

Of course, career is not just about career. Work and life are closely intertwined, whether we like or not. I have seen parenthood turn people into better leaders. I have seen leadership roles turn people into better parents and partners. Great teams and organisations are manifestations of their leaders persona, even more so if they are young set-ups.

A+M: What should individuals take note of when negotiating their pay?

It is important to be reasonable in this regard. Career and rewards are a long-term relationship, and it must be founded on a mutual sense of fairness.

A+M: How important is word of mouth references in general?

Very. They typically tend to be more credible than what any CV will tell you.

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