Hello, friends! I’m really happy to be back with the second episode of my ‘Podcast for Freelancers’ series…And this time, I again have a very dear friend with me, Smitha Naidu!
I’ve been with her in college, we did our MBA together. Smitha, founder of Magic Laughter is a Laughter Yoga Teacher and a Happiness Coach. Prior to this, she has also worked for 9 years in a corporate job before she embarked on this entirely new journey. So, let’s head straight into this episode and see what Smitha has to share with us!
Tulika – Hi Smitha, how’re you doing today?
Smitha – Hi Tulika, I’m doing great! Thanks for having me here, am really excited for today!
Tulika – Ya, I know…it’s really great to connect with you after so many years! I think we just lost touch and I’m so happy that both of us launched our websites pretty much at the same time…
Smitha – Ya, I launched my website almost a year back.
Tulika – It’s almost the same time that we’ve started our new ventures and it’s really a good way to reconnect! Last time I spoke to you, I remember you were in Pune with Naukri in a Sales and Marketing profile. So, before we get into our discussion about Magic Laughter, let’s talk a bit about your corporate stint…
Smitha – Sure….After we passed out of our MBA in 2003, I started working with Naukri.com. At that point in time, they had just started their operations all over India. I joined their Sales and Marketing team in Mumbai office. I was more into Business Development and Account Management. Eventually, I started handling Key Account Management for them. I did that till 2012, so it was like almost 9 years with Naukri.com!
After that, I shifted to Singapore as my husband got a good opportunity there. And after working for almost ten years, I felt like taking a break, I needed to chill a bit! Also needed to do a bit a soul searching, I was really feeling burned out after 10 years of work.
You know, I joined yoga classes, reading clubs, walking clubs etc… and then I came across this amazing Laughter Yoga club in Singapore. I joined them, had a really nice time and that’s when I decided to get into this professionally.
Tulika – So, I would say that it wasn’t really a conscious decision to leave the corporate job. It just happened…you know, you moved to Singapore because of your husband’s job and things just fell into place! It’s great actually, one never knows what opportunity will come knocking at your doors next!
But, if I were to get back to your journey, how did you take the plunge finally….
Smitha – Actually, once I decided that I wanted to take up Laughter Yoga as a certification program, I went to Bangalore and did my certification under Dr. Madan Kataria – the Laughter Yoga Guru.
But the major push that I got in terms of actually doing this big time was after I met with an accident in Singapore and suffered a really bad knee injury. I could not even walk and I was getting into a lot of depression you can say…
Once I did this Laughter Yoga course, we have this 40-day challenge and I decided to take up this challenge. I started practicing this day-in and day-out….I found a miraculous change in me and this got me thinking. Why not get this to everybody and if everyone can laugh away their problems – they can actually enjoy their life and have a good time, in whatever they do!
And that’s how I came up with this thing called Magic Laughter – it’s my company that I’ve started in Singapore. Magic Laughter predominantly works on Laughter Yoga and Mindfulness as elements of healing. We do a lot of corporate workshops, wellness workshops in yoga studios, we work with people with special needs, kids…..We essentially work with all segments of people, trying to spread laughter and mindfulness wherever we can!
Tulika – That’s great really. You know, a lot of people start yoga classes or a laughter club as something that they do with their regular jobs. They don’t charge for it. But for you – it’s a mix of both. You hold workshops that are free of charge and the same time, you are also generating a steady source of income through this.
So, how is the market like? How open are people to maybe a workshop on laughter therapy? You’ve worked both in Singapore and India – so what is the demand like….how receptive are people towards a new concept like this?
Smitha – People are actually quite receptive towards it as they are going through a lot of stress in their lives. They really want to do something about it. And when they want to do something about it, they actually want to try out different avenues. Apart from Yoga and Mindfulness, these are the avenues people look for nowadays.
Organizations also want their employees to be happy and healthy. So, they are also very receptive towards these kinds of options nowadays. When I started contacting the corporates in India, they actually appreciated the idea of including laughter in their day-to-day activities.
I’ve done a couple of corporate wellness workshops specifically targeting either Happy Healthy Workforce or a Team Building exercise. It can also be used for their Leadership Development Program. So, these kinds of things are becoming really popular with more and more people opting for these avenues.
Typically, what started off as a laughter club movement has moved far beyond it now. People are taking it to different walks of life…apart from laughing in the club, people are beginning to understand that laughter can be therapeutic, it can actually change the life and perspective of a person.
Tulika – You know, that’s really a surprising fact for me too. Like for all of us, we’ve been used to seeing this group of people in the park who spend 5 to 10 minutes after a yoga session to laugh together. But, I didn’t know that you could use laughter to heal your wounds or for that matter heal the trauma or stress that one may be going through.
Smitha – Absolutely! I found the difference in myself actually. So, when I go and meet people, talk about it – there’s a different way that they view things. They’re like – oh, it really helped you! They want to know more about it…
There are a lot of cases where it has helped cancer patients, kidney dialysis treatment… there’s a lot of research happening in US and UK about how laughter can be helpful in different kinds of health related issues…
Tulika – Coming to the business side of things, how did you go about promoting Magic Laughter? How did you go about in terms of setting up the entire thing? What was your thinking process like?
Smitha – When I started laughter clubs in India and Singapore, I relied heavily on Facebook and launched my Facebook Page – Magic Laughter
Tulika – So, you would typically create an event maybe for a weekend on your Facebook page. Did you also spend money on advertising to promote these events?
Smitha – Sometimes, I did advertise these events. Typically, these are workshops that I am doing in a studio. So my studio partners would also advertise and circulate the workshop details on their Facebook page.
Advertising on Facebook helped me reach out to a wider audience number. Though Laughter Therapy is a new concept, people are showing a lot of interest in it and want to know more about it.
I also do a lot of work on LinkedIn, publish articles on various wellness websites. I have written a couple of articles on SOULSCAPE Asia…It’s quite famous here in Singapore. These things have helped me reach out to a wider audience and get the word out.
Tulika – So if I have to sum it up, you initially started with having a Facebook page, organized workshops, advertised on Facebook and did content management on LinkedIn and wellness websites. How easy or difficult was it for you to get accepted to write for leading online publications like SOULSCAPE Asia?
Smitha – Luckily for me, it was not really difficult! When I reached out them, they were quite happy and excited about Laughter Yoga. It’s quite a trending topic nowadays….People are really interested and love to read about health, wellness, and healing.
Tulika – Facebook is a great way to reach out to individuals. As far as your corporate workshops are concerned, how do you go about reaching out to them and convince them to hold a workshop on Laughter Yoga?
Smitha – I reach to corporates through LinkedIn. I also attend a lot of networking events where I meet people and bounce off ideas on what this is all about.
I have this workshop that is typically targeted towards corporates – the ‘Reboot Happiness’ workshop. This has elements of the science of happiness, laughter yoga, mindfulness, and it has a lot of games which are related to the brain. This kind of a package works really well for a corporate because they have a nice time laughing, they get to relax and recharge their brain. It also helps them with team building and takes them to a different level of charging and de-stressing.
Tulika – Coming to the monetary aspect of this. Do you think this is financially sustainable in the long run?
Smitha – I believe in taking things one step at a time. I am very positive that this kind of a thing would work. Stress management and wellness industry is picking up big time everywhere. So, I’m sure more and more people will want to become a part of such a movement. It’s a good concept really!
As of now, I’ve not made loads of money out of it, but whatever money I have made – I’m happy.
Tulika – Actually, you also get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people. So, it’s not just the monetary aspect that one should be looking at here.
Smitha – Tulika, you would not believe how many blessings I have got from seniors through my laughter club. They tell me that I am doing a very good job, that they had not laughed for a very long time and were feeling very positive after the session! I believe these blessings will really help me going forward, in creating a niche for myself and also make a difference in people’s life.
You really feel happy at the end of the session when people come up to you and say that they had a really great time, that they are feeling really happy and stress-free. It’s a great feeling to have, something that I probably never had working in a regular job!
Tulika – Going forward, what are your plans for the next year? Anything new on your radar?
Smitha – I’m trying to do sessions in different countries going forward…I recently did one session in Taiwan and am planning to do a few more in South-east Asia.
Tulika – Again, you are reaching out to these people through LinkedIn?
Smitha – Ya, I’ve reached them either through Facebook, LinkedIn or through a networking event where I had met them. Some people have also responded to my articles on various websites.
Tulika – You know, most of my audience here are people who are on their own and when you are starting out, the most difficult part is – how to reach out to people? So for you, it is a Facebook page, Facebook ads, LinkedIn, articles on online publications and networking events that have worked.
Smitha – Yes, also – there are a lot of people who come for laughter sessions in my laughter club….some of them are from different countries. You share contacts with them and if I am traveling there, I just say a hi and if something can work out there, then why not!
Tulika – Definitely! Thank you so much, Smitha for taking out time today for this session. And for all my audience out there, I hope you had a great time listening to Smitha!
You know, when we think of working independently or freelancing, we generally think of the typical things like becoming a consultant or a graphics designer. Becoming a Laughter Yoga Trainer is not even on the radar for a lot of people out there! And this is also good because it is helping you make a difference in your life as well as other people’s lives.
Great Smitha and I’m really happy we’re back in touch! And for all my audience here, if there’s anything that you want to ask Smitha…if there’s any query or doubt in your mind, you can write in to me and I will definitely try to get Smitha back here sometime. You can also get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Smitha!