From school friends to business partners, Shamaal Panagoda and Julian Zufer, the Directors of Flipit Media (Pvt) Ltd, Sri Lanka, are a silent force reckoned with in the media production industry. Offering a wide range of services, with thousands of animations and hundreds of hours of video productions, has transformed their boutique studio into the powerhouse it is today. They now offer 360 in-marketing solutions with additional services such as 3D modelling and architectural visualisations. The duo has come a long way in acquiring an outstanding level of accomplishments in the hearts and minds of their clients.
Shamaal strongly believes that more support and opportunities are needed for local entrepreneurs. He continued, “It’s not just capital but more support via knowledge and incubation programmes. I believe that there are now more opportunities for entrepreneurs than ever before, but there needs to be more as well as opportunities for overseas collaborations.” Shamaal has also invested in a few start-up companies in the tech industry covering AI and Cyber Security, which he believes is the future.
Stepping into the domains of proficiency, Shamaal, a former Josephian and a Marketer by profession, commenced his entrepreneurial journey at the young age of 18 years in a metal finishing company, which was a family-owned business. The responsibilities that he held provided him with the opportunity to develop his leadership skills in people management and leadership while learning business basics. However, he tasted his first failure when he had to close this down. From that point on, he ventured into candle manufacturing. Subsequently, he joined yet another family business in logistics for a short period before finally starting his own business.
Shamaal takes a retrospective walk through their 11-year journey at Flipit. As an advertising and production company, he states that they were fortunate to work with some of the largest companies in Srilanka and overseas. “Our clients are all referral-based. So we thought it’s time to shine a light on what we offer, as we feel the toughest times bring out the best opportunities”, declares Shamaal when elaborating on the success they have achieved. He also mentioned how differently they conceptualise their marketing programs for Flipit, “We are not flashy but very conservative. We do our branding very modestly and focus on getting the job done”.
According to Shamaal, client relationships are at the heart of their business, “Our clients are like our friends. We try to exceed their expectations and be consistent in what we do while doing so better than our competitors”. Shamaal believes that this approach to business has helped them overcome the initial challenges faced as an entrepreneurial startup. “Starting in a small 10 by 12 room, we had a very humble beginning, building on opportunities wherever we could. We are where we are because of our clients. They brought us here”. Shamaal concludes by stating, “if you believe in something, never ever give up!.”
Julian Anthony Zufer, the co-Founder at Flipit is a creative entrepreneur. Unlike business entrepreneurs, creative entrepreneurs invest in talent or intellectual capital. A past pupil and colours man of St. Joseph’s College, he brings a plethora of creative flair to the company. Julian was introduced to design and manufacturing by his Father, Gerard, at a very early age. His Father got him involved in every Corporate award he produced through his company. With a solid foundation in manufacturing and design, Julian was also a musician playing for several bands during his school days. He is a writer, storyteller, photographer, voicing artist, creative director, and passionate builder who believes that creativity should not be limited to an idea and needs to be exercised physically. He emphasised, “I built my first guitar when I was 16. It was not the best, but it played; I built my first drone in 2011 to fly a GoPro to get some shots. Did it fly? Yes, it did! Did I get the shot I wanted? Yes, we did. Did it crash? Yup, with Flying colours!”
Julian’s corporate work life has been a short but very diverse one. It started at a telesales company with the job role of selling pens to the UK. This is where he learnt and practised sales. From composing a sales pitch to formulating objection handling and closings was engraved for over a year. He was selected as a management trainee for Hemas Travels, where he was introduced to the world of travel and leisure. At Hemas, he was trained as a ticketing officer and exposed to airlines such as Malaysian for ticketing and Emirates for cargo. But his true passion was always into the creative industry. “I would have easily applied to over 50 companies for creative jobs but none worked out as I didn’t have any work experience or qualifications for design”. He was called in for a Job interview at Minds FCB and was offered a job as a Junior Client servicing executive. “This was not my dream job, but this allowed me to get into the industry.”
While at Minds, he handled clients such as Anchor Shape-up, Anlene, Raththi, Newdale and Hayleys Agro, stating, “The experience from the travel industry gave me the right attitude to assist, service and respect my clients. Working at Minds gave me the foundation in advertising, creative marketing, and insight into video production. It allowed me to work with international production houses such as Kerosene Productions and many Indian Models and the famous Mrs Perera (Rinku Patel) for many Ratthi Commercials.”
Julian Zufer was recruited by Subha Tidball (Grand Daughter and founder of Minds and the late Mr Rejji Kandappa) as a Trainee Graphic designer for Ruby Studio. He was personally trained by Subha herself, as he stated, “Ruby Studios is who I am today and all due gratitude to Subha for paving my way to who I am today. I was fortunate to learn cinematography, video editing, audio editing, storytelling, puppet building, and puppet production from Sesame Street Holland, and I am ever grateful to Suba for giving me that exposure.” Julian was responsible for creating over 165 episodes of the ever-popular kid’s TV show, ‘English class for me’ with this foundation.
Julian’s creative entrepreneurial career started as a Design Consultant to the European Union. After that, he was a Photographer and the Designer of the research launch of the proposed food security program. He stated, “This was a very adventurous photoshoot as I had to travel to almost all the places where the war was highly active just two weeks after the war ended, and I asked Shamaal to tag along with me. So this was the journey of 2 friends that led to who we are today.”
“Flipit was supposed to be an online platform of a directory which never came to light. So we invested in a project way ahead of its time. “The name Flipit comes from the flipping of a page. When we created the video to promote the platform, clients were more interested in the video and who produced it, and that’s how flipit.lk became Flipit Media (Pvt)Ltd. and we had a very humble beginning.”
Julian Zufer concludes, “Money is not the foundation of great accomplishments; passion is. ” Flipit Media (Pvt) Ltd, which just two passionate individuals started, is a truly inspiring story. A story that begins with nothing, to be one of the well-known production brands in the country.
Whilst marking their 30th year as friends, Shamaal and Julian celebrate 11 years of inclining success as business partners of Flipit. Their progress over the years has provided them with the sustenance to widen their perspective and continue to expand their unrivalled services in the domains of advertising and video production. With hopes of making more remarkable transformations in the advertising industry, they conclude, “We know we have the potential to do a lot more. And it’s about time for the world to see it”.