Hailing from a small village in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, Shyam Prasad Kumpati did engineering in 2001 and the longest part of his career was in IT. IT career took him to various cities both in India and abroad, but no matter where he was, one hobby that he constantly been in touch and took time to nurture it. Like most of the people these days, the natural transition is to watch local films, Bollywood and then Hollywood, but he started watching a lot of world cinema and realized what a different world is out there outside the realms of Bollywood and Hollywood. Each new movie Shyam watched made him discover many more. The more he watched, the more he felt the need to watch and there is to watch. But, it was around 2012 that his views have changed after watching an Oscar Nominated Indian film called ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’ and felt that there is so much one can do through a visual medium, no matter how big or a small thing that you want to express.
Shyam’s love for visual medium and storytelling led the birth and organic growth of Shadow Puppet Films, a video production house based in Hyderabad. At Shadow Puppet Films, Shyam and his team love telling stories of various kinds while ensuring they meet the needs and specifications of their customers.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview where Shyam speaks about his journey with HelloPost Team:
When did you think to transform your passion into your core business?
Around 2013 or so, when I was very much in IT, I and my colleague conducted a hackathon event for two days and I developed this idea of covering that event and make a nice little film about the event – so I started capturing various footage as things started happening live and I did it for two days. I used my Nikon D3100 for the entire shoot and shot it in available light. When we edited the footage, we got a good one and my leaders appreciated it so much and by the end of the exercise, I got close to 60% of my vision and I felt happy. That’s when I realized that I should probably try and do something. That lead to a small documentary idea about an interesting place called ‘Our Sacred Space’ in Secunderabad. I came to know about it through a friend and I fell in love with the place and its philosophy in my very first few minutes. I felt there is something very unique about it and I spoke to the founder of the place and asked if she would mind if I make a small documentary about the place. She gladly accepted. So, for the next 20-30 days, I filmed all alone during my time and took a bunch of interviews and a lot of b-roll footage, etc. I learned editing online and finally came up with a small 5 minutes documentary film about the place. This taught me so many aspects of documentary filmmaking and the processes involved. At the same time, I realized where I was lacking too and that a team is necessary if I have to turn my passion into a career. So, essentially these are two incidents which pushed me to think in terms of an alternate career of producing videos.
How did you transform your passion into your career?
After my experiments with Hackathon video and my documentary video on ‘Our Sacred Space’, I started doing multiple things related to films during 2015-2018. I worked as an AD for someone in making a short film here in Telugu Film Industry and started making small connections with people related to film making. My ability to network lead me to meet some fine filmmakers who graduated from LV Prasad Film Institute, Chennai and that kind of changed everything for me. I started working these people who got professionally trained in making films and with more help and better abilities, we started taking up smaller assignments. My experience in project management in IT helped me a great deal in traversing through customer challenges, but we firmly realized that we have a team to take up formal assignments and deliver not only on time but with great quality. So, after being in two worlds for 2-3 years, I formally came out of my IT job in June-2018 and decided to give start new avatar in my life. That gave birth to Shadow Puppet Films. In the last 16 months of, we have done close to 14 videos for various customers and now we are formally impaneled with AP government as a vendor. Things have been very encouraging.
Were there any difficulties in transforming it? How did you overcome that and what advice would you give others in your situation?
Yes, many. With the kind of super-talented people that I work with, we have been very effective in executing projects in the least amount of time and with great production qualities, but the challenge is in effectively handling the idle between projects. The fact that nobody knows you beyond just your immediate circle, it is tough to crack bigger assignments. The biggest challenged that I faced and that I still continue to face is the marketing part of what we do and getting new customers. The fact that whoever we worked with would come back to us given that they are happy with what we delivered, but getting the foot into the door of a prospect is where it is a challenge. Nobody even talks to you unless you are referred by someone. I started solving this bottleneck by joining some networking communities here in Hyderabad. That has been helping me a bit. To any wanna-be-entrepreneurs, my piece of advice is to fold – stay passionate, don’t compromise on quality and network more.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
The biggest motivation is the kind of work we are doing. It’s the ability to tell other’s stories is what is interesting and the fact that I get to meet so many different people, from all walks of life, is what drives me. Of course, there is money in what I do. What’s more, is needed!!!
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur
Who inspires you?
Rafael Nadal is my huge inspiration. He is not a gifted player like Roger Federer and I doubt if he is even half of Federer’s skills, but the fact that he achieved so much with his limited resources is so inspiring.
What lessons did you learn while transforming your passion into your core business?
Developing capital to take care of any adverse situations and reducing fixed costs are the biggest lessons that I learned. And yes, I keep learning this every single day ‘Network or perish’
What are your future plans?
We want to become one of the biggest and most sought out video production houses of Hyderabad – that’s our goal by 2020-21.
Any tips for others who want to transform their passion into their career.
Listen to your heart and see what it aches for – that’s the first step. Then, find ways to transform it into money or at least a parallel career.