The talent behind channels Sakaejai and Namasate shares her journey.
By Ashima Sethi
Yanisa Kumar Arora is the 26-year old sensation behind popular video channels Sakaejai and Namasate. Charismatic, bold, and not afraid to be larger than life, Yanisa’s commitment to content creation stems from her desire to demystify the Indian lifestyle to Thai viewers, which has resulted in her creating and starring in a plethora of hilarious videos in which she tackles topics about food, travel, and more.
Yanisa explains that what started as a medium that she used to record personal memories has shifted to become a passion project t hat she relishes because she is able to share her unique identity as an Indian living in the North of Thailand with viewers around the world. This is her story:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upbringing?
I grew up in Thailand. My mother’s side of the family were also born in Thailand, whereas my father and his family are from India. All of us live in Lampang up in the North of Thailand. We’ve got quite a small but close Indian community here, everyone mainly hangs out with their families but we see each other at social events. I attended school in Lampang, after which I pursued a higher education studying a degree in Mass Communications with speciﬁc focus on radio and television at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University.
Did you always have a passion for performing or did something spark your interest?
Since I was a child, I’ve always loved performing and being in front of the camera as my parents have always encouraged me to take on activities that allowed me to build my conﬁdence both in general and my conﬁdence to perform in front of others. Performing has always been a big part of my life because I just enjoy it so much, I see it as having the opportunity to show new sides of me, to relate to so many diﬀerent people.
When did you start making videos and how did you get started?
When I ﬁrst launched my channel Sakaejai (สาแก่ใจ) it came from wanting to give people a glimpse into my lifestyle. I began doing vlogs about travelling and enjoying new experiences. For example, one of the earliest videos I did was when I decided to travel to Singapore to visit some friends. Before heading out, I decided I really wanted to make a vlog but I needed to ﬁgure out what I was going to do on this trip that would make my journey stand out from the others already on YouTube. That’s when I thought of the idea of travelling on just THB 5,000, which was perfect because it suited my budget and I knew there would be people out there who wanted to know how to as well. The clip ended up getting a very good response!
After my initial videos began traction, I decided I was going to change my direction. There was one day that I thought to myself: “Well, the act of making lifestyle vlogs is something anyone can do, but the thing that makes me most unique is my identity and my Indian heritage.” Whether you’re an Indian expat, a Thai-Indian, or even half Indian, we’re all a part of this rich culture that not too many people understand here. So, I decided I wanted to show viewers what being Indian really means and bring our culture to the forefront. I wanted to tell my story through my favourite medium, which is being on video. Therefore, I started adapting my content to become more Indian-centric and these videos fall under my Namasate (นะมัสสาเต) channel.
I try and tackle topics that non-Indians will ﬁ nd interesting about our culture. For example, street food. It’s something that’s universally loved and something that India does spectacularly well because there’s so much choice available. I wanted to make it approachable for viewers to encourage them to give it a go and learn more about it. At the end of the day, I want my videos to beneﬁt people and serve as an educational resource as well as a means of entertainment.
Why did you decide to start doing this professionally?
I still have my own business where I sell Indian clothes and goods (Facebook: @ลีน่าอินเดียสไตล์) so I would call this more of a passion project. I don’t view content creation as a job but rather something I want to oﬀer the world. I do it because I ﬁnd it super enjoyable. I don’t wake up stressed about statistics and followers, I enjoy the challenge of thinking of, what am I going to do next? It keeps me on my toes.
How do you ﬁnd inspiration for your videos and what’s your creative process like?
A lot of the topics for my video stem from my own interests and curiosity. For example, the other day I really wanted to eat Indian roti and the thought came to mind as to which Thai curry would be best with this roti. I was genuinely curious so I created a video and found that there were others who were also curious because the response was good.
When it comes to my process the ﬁrst thing I consider is, what do I as the creator want to know? I believe that my curiosity links well with my audience and this relationship stems from the fact that before I started making videos about Indian culture, I was far-removed from the Indian lifestyle. I was working in the Thai entertainment industry so Thai culture was what I was predominantly exposed to. Therefore, a lot of the things I talk about are things Indians might already know but I don’t and my viewers don’t, so in searching for answers for myself, my viewers can relate to me too.
After coming up with a concept, I think about what Thai viewers might already know and try to piece the two things together. For example, a video about laddoo. Thai audiences know that it’s an Indian sweet but they don’t know what it looks like, how aromatic it is, how it’s made. So I take something that the masses might know and expand on it for my content.
Step three, I publish the video and look at all the comments. I take pride in replying to all the comments on my videos because I ﬁ nd feedback so valuable. I try to understand the engagement, how it beneﬁtted my viewers, if they want me to change anything. I read all the messages in my inbox and try to cater to the things people want from me. I truly think my viewers are my teachers and I have a lot to learn from them.
What’s the signiﬁcance of your channel’s name?
Namaste is an Indian greeting but when I use it to open my videos, I emphasise the ‘Sa’ so it sounds like Na-Ma-Sa-Te to include my name too. This makes it a fun way for viewers to remember me, Sa, as well as the greeting.
With so much competition on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube what makes you stand out?
My unique perspective makes me stand out. Being fully Indian but able to speak Thai clearly is my signature and something that I think makes me stand out compared to other channels. I also put a lot of joy into my videos, I want people to enjoy themselves when they watch my content. I’ve never looked at content creation competitively where I look too closely at follower count, likes, and things like that. It’s never been a priority for me at all. I create this content because it’s a part of me!
Have your family been supportive of your passion?
Very supportive! If I were to research and think about all these Indian-related topics on my own from the beginning it would’ve been very challenging as someone who was a bit disconnected from the Indian lifestyle. But my family have always been helpful in educating me on certain topics, telling me stories about India, and suggesting things for me to talk about. I’m very thankful for everyone’s help, from my immediate family to my relatives and my friends.
How do you hope to grow your page in the future?
In the short term, when COVID-19 is over, I would love to travel to India and show people some beautiful places that are oﬀ the map. Some people have very generalised opinions and stereotypes about India, they think “Oh it’s dirty and the food smells very strong.” I want to break these down in a way that’s memorable and useful. I also hope in the future, I can share my videos with my nieces and nephews and my children.
The long-term goal is to get to the point where if anyone around the world is curious about anything to do with the Indian lifestyle, my page is going to be their go-to. You know how we associated coﬀee with Starbucks? I want my channel to be the ﬁrst thing someone thinks of when they think Indian lifestyle. I have plans to put English subtitles on my videos so they’re more accessible for global viewers and also plans to collaborate with guests like chefs to become more widely-recognised.
Beyond just being an inﬂuencer, you’ve also done other work such as modelling. What do you enjoy about these other gigs?
Coming up with videos means I have to remain inspired so I try to keep my life as interesting as possible. I enjoy music, dancing, and ﬁnd that a lot of my creative passions link together because they make me who I am.
I enjoy modelling because there’s a big creative process behind it and I can depict all kinds of emotion. It’s a facet of the entertainment industry, which is where all my interests are rooted. Before making videos I starred in a series on Channel 1, I worked in advertising and commercials, and in on-stage performances. I’ve done these things my whole life because they make me happy. I never pursued these things out of a hunger for being famous, it was born from a genuine passion for them.
Why should people in the community follow your page?
My channel has a speciﬁc purpose and it comes from a place of pure joy. I want to share our culture with others and celebrate it, I want people to discover things they don’t know with me, and I want to genuinely connect with my viewers. So I think the community would really love my content if they checked it out!
Follow Yanisa’s adventures via her social platforms: