Info-tech

We don't want to get into the battle of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’: LinkedIn

Thomas K. Thomas S. Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

Nishant K. Rao, Country Head, LinkedIn India

The game is not about adding random connections of people that you don't know, it is about adding relevant connections of people.- Nishant K Rao, Country Manager, LinkedIn India.

With over 20 million users, India is now the second largest market for professional networking site LinkedIn.

The company says sign-ups for the professional social network have risen by more than 500 per cent since it opened an office in the country in November 2009. Business Line met Nishant K. Rao, Country Head, LinkedIn India, to know how the company plans to sustain its growth momentum.

What is LinkedIn’s focus area going forward? Are you trying to be a combination of what Facebook and Twitter offers today?

When LinkedIn was originally started, it was all about networking and connecting at scale. Back from day one we had this idea ‘if every professional could be connected wouldn’t that be great’, so it was about connection.

I think what we have evolved to in the last couple of years in realising that as a professional there is more to it in the current job and, therefore, we shifted focus on content because ideally if you can be represented not as a two piece of paper (resume), but a three-dimensional aspect of everything you are including what content you have and what opinions you have. If we get to know you as a better professional, we can drive that relevance and right opportunity whether it is business or career.

That is the shift that is happening and I don't think we are trying to emulate anyone. We are definitely not trying to be a social network that solves your entertainment and social issues (like Facebook or Twitter).

How often does a user come back to their profile to update or post something?

Historically, we have seen amazing growth in terms of our numbers and recently we are also seeing great growth in terms of engagements. In the second quarter, we had around 45 per cent increase in unique visitors coming back to the site and 69 per cent in page views. So people are increasingly coming back and getting engaged because so much of innovations we are doing on our site.

We are on top 25 sites of the world as ranked by Comscore and we see huge shifts year over year in that front as well.

Facebook has ‘Likes’ and Twitter has ‘Followers’. What is that feel good factor for users on LinkedIn?

We have number of connections but consciously we don't want to get into same battle because quality matters so much than quantity. The game is not about adding random connections of people that you don't know, it is about adding relevant connections of people that you do know so you can tap into them because I want to make sure that it is a connection that is worth there that is why we have consciously limited to ‘500+ connections’ so that people don't get into ‘oh! I have these many connections’.

Our objectives are little bit different than our peers. Neither it is numbers nor it is time spent. It is about making one efficient. I don’t want you to spend 100 minutes to look for a same information, I will give it in 10 minutes.

Currently, a significant part of your revenue comes from talent solutions. Any plans to ramp up advertising and marketing income?

Talent solution has been a great business line for us, but we are values driven company, our ‘members first’ is our largest value. We won't do anything to compromise the member experience. You have to thoughtful because when you are going to the marketing, sales and space, people can bombard and we rather go again for quality over quantity.

Going forward, will marketing solutions be a big business?

Absolutely, and we continue to invest in it. We just launched sponsored updates, which is a new product for us where people can put content into our news update screen. You will see marketing solutions coming in strong but it will not be on volume front.

How many users are you adding on a monthly basis?

We are adding more than two members per second globally. That is the pace of growth that we are seeing. We will announce when we reach the next milestone. India is one of the countries, which is growing very fast for us. The tipping point that happened in the US three-four years ago, it feels like we have already hit that in India. People are starting to see the full power of the network — not just for job, connections — and people are engaging with different parts of our site. We started our office in India in November 2009 and at that time there were 3.4 million members and today we are well over 21 million members. We are continuing to be one of the fastest growing countries for LinkedIn on a weekly basis.

What is your target for India? Do you see this momentum of 500 per cent growth continuing?

We do see momentum and that is why we continue to grow very fast. But, I don’t think we chase these numbers as targets. We don’t necessarily chase metrics around growth or around specific time spent on site because we want to make sure that people have good experience. So there is no real target that we are chasing. We want to deliver value to as many professionals in India as possible and that is where we are having initiatives around students, for example because students and recent graduates are just as much professionals as anyone else. They have not historically had the ability of express their professional brand because it was about jobs and positions, which they did not have at that time.

So we have added a lot of stuff onto the site like test score, volunteer associations and things around projects to have a full identity. We have recently announced university pages and our alumni tool to help these students make better decisions around their career. So there is a focus around making sure those guys just as any other professionals have a voice and ability to project a professional brand.

And as we get into different geographies we are figuring out what are those bases which are left out of our mission and we are trying to focus on those guys, if there is a specific product change needed. But, we are not chasing any particular target.

Is there a difference in a way LinkedIn is approaching India market? How localised is the services that you are offering here?

Some of the stuffs that apply globally in terms of relevance, applies here too like who is in your network and what are they sharing, what function, what industry etc. We are exploring what other avenues of localisation would be right, we don’t want to become a place where we have a super customised product for any unique country because then you miss out of the global innovation.

What is your value proposition in the digital advertising and marketing space?

I think in India, I still find people in that evolution or journey where they can track digital conversions, so they focus all their attention on squeezing them. So, they are almost killing the digital before even they start. People are coming here (LinkedIn) to invest time whereas they go to other websites to spend/ passing time. So, because of that one of the things they are looking for is updates from brands. But, that is why brands need to be sensitive that they are not looking for your product, but your information and lot of companies have tonnes of research and information.

What about acquisitions?

We continue to look at acquisitions at the right time for solving a particular need. We continue to look at mergers and acquisitions as a path, but, we see it is a means and not an end goal. We will continue to look.

Are you seeing more traction on mobile or is it more from PC?

It is both. Mobile is our fastest growing service. We have third of our traffic globally coming through mobile and it is no different in India and it is good market for us. We are seeing actually growth in desktop page views as well. Mobile now is 33 per cent of our traffic and its increasingly growing in India as well as we add more platforms. We have iOS, Android and BlackBerry. We have just added Nokia Asha to that and we will continue to see traction in India on mobile as well.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

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Published on October 02, 2013
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