An Indian masseur with a huge online following is on the verge of starting her own company, and she wants her clients to be confident that they are getting a fair deal.
Shreeva Prasad, founder and CEO of the popular social media site, is a yoga instructor at a prestigious Delhi-based yoga studio and has built her career on being a positive presence on the platform.
She started out with a small massage company in Delhi and has since opened two more outlets in New York and Toronto.
Her most recent outlet in India is a massage and body art studio called Massage Therapy.
The studio was founded by her father and was established in 2014 by her mother.
Now, she is opening Massage Therapys first outlet in the UK, a city where gay rights activists have been fighting for years to get the country’s healthcare system to recognize their relationship and to allow them to access sex work.
Her company, MassageTherapy, is an alternative massage and health care brand with more than 200 outlets around the country.
It aims to provide a platform for LGBT and queer people who want to get into massage therapy.
“We are offering a platform where people can go to and talk to their partner, partner with their partner and get the treatment they need to heal and get back into a good relationship,” she said.
“The more you do it, the more you will see how it can help other people and get them into their bodies.”
It’s a similar story in the US.
In December 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of gay marriage in all 50 states, and in October 2018, a group of gay couples were able to wed in Utah.
Prasad said that as the gay community has grown in the past few years, the number of LGBT people seeking treatment for sexual health issues has skyrocketed.
“In the last few years it’s become clear that there is a real issue with stigma and discrimination against LGBT people,” she told Business Insider.
“I think it’s really important to have an outlet where people could get the information they need.”
Massage Therapy has already seen some success in the country, with a group working with HIV sufferers in New Zealand who are using it to connect them with other people who can also provide services for them.
“Massage therapy can be a very simple therapy and we have seen a lot of success,” Prasam said.
“It’s very effective, it works and people are very happy with it.”
The new company is launching in Britain as well, but Prasaman says that there are plenty of hurdles to overcome before she is able to expand to the US and other European countries.
“This is something that is a very challenging business model,” she explained.
“I think a lot is going to have to go right through our heads.”
MassagedTherapy is aiming to offer a range of services to clients, from personalised massages to massage therapy, and Massagetherapy also aims to open an online platform in the future.
However, it’s a niche market and not everyone is ready to jump in, as some people might prefer a more traditional massage, or an online model.
“It’s hard to say because you can’t be an LGBT person and you’re not going to get access to a massage,” said Prasamas co-founder.
“The way it works, it is more like a massage therapist who will do massages.
You can have your masseur come to you and say, ‘Would you like me to do something, or would you like to have your body done?’
It’s a very traditional approach.”
The Massage therapy platform is also trying to offer some good news to gay people in India, as the country is one of the few that does not recognise gay couples’ relationships.
“People think, ‘You’re married to someone, you’re going to take them back for a massage, they can’t have sex with you, you can only get a massage if you get a certificate from a certified massage therapist’,” said Prasesam.
“For gay people who are going through that and who are looking for help, there is definitely a need to get a certified therapist.”
Prasam, who is also a yoga teacher, believes that there could be huge benefits to working with transgender people as well.
“When I first started working at Massage, I didn’t really understand trans issues,” she added.
“When I was doing the yoga I was always talking to people about how to transition, but when I started working with gay people I started to really understand how their bodies worked and I realised that I can do a lot more work with them.
I think with the platform, we can give them some support and give them the confidence to come to work and to be a part of a healthy, happy relationship.”