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LinkedIn won't be a Mass Media Platform

Despite not chasing numbers, it has seen a 500 percent member growth in the country in the last few years, says Nishant Rao, country manager, LinkedIn India

Published: Oct 8, 2014 06:04:21 AM IST
Updated: Oct 10, 2014 03:45:07 PM IST
LinkedIn won't be a Mass Media Platform

Education: MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Business; BS in Computer Science from the University of Texas, Austin
Career: McKinsey, Ariba Inc, Epicentre Technologies

Q. Has LinkedIn been a tad subdued in India? Why did we not see any activity during the general elections when other social networks made a splash?
For us, context matters most. We want to cater to a professional context. We want to consciously stay away from the personal side of things because our job is to make you more productive as a professional. The general elections fitted more in the personal category. Of course, there were many discussions happening professionally from the candidates’ standpoint. But their aspiration was to reach out to the masses. LinkedIn by design doesn’t aim to be a mass media platform. We are not chasing numbers.

Q. How has your member base and traffic grown in India?  
We began business in early 2010, and today, there are 28 million users. India has the second-largest member base (after the US) for LinkedIn [313 million members] globally. We’ve seen almost 500 percent member growth in the last couple of years. Our base has broadened outside the industries—IT, finance— that you would classically associate with early adoption of technology. It has broadened outside of metros to tier 1, 2 and 3 cities. There’s an increase in not only the number of sign-ups and new users but also in people’s use of our product portfolio. There’s huge traffic from mobile. Forty-five percent of our page views are from the mobile app.

Q. Are Indian consumers LinkedIn-literate?
India is a bit of a ‘do-it-for-me’ market. Consumers need more handholding to understand the platform. And we are evaluating how best we can do that. There are over 40 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn. They are LinkedIn's fastest-growing demographic. In India, we have a strategic partnership with AIESEC that goes out to universities to explain the various functionalities of LinkedIn. IIM-A has also partnered with us where they use our Alumni tool for high-level insights about the alumni of a particular school as well as gain access to the more detailed professional profiles they've shared. We tell them what a good profile is and what is not. We are adding features and functionalities that help them as professionals. At the same time, it is important for us to do concept tests before releasing new tools in the market.

Q. Have brand marketers utilised the full potential of your platform?
Some of the savvy marketers have. But their mindset is still volume-driven. And it is not just true for LinkedIn, but digital as a whole. Our focus is to make them move from a quantity- to a quality-based transaction. We are helping them arrive at new metrics and processes. There’s a large Indian IT player that is doing custom research with us to understand how they can tweak their content for different stakeholders.

Illustration: Chaitanya Dinesh Surpur

Q. Is Facebook for Business competition for you?  

No. Essentially, we see the world the same way. Our aim is to shift the market from traditional to digital and utilise the power of personalisation in digital. Our use cases are different. Businesses are using FB to engage directly with consumers. They are coming to LinkedIn to engage with professionals.
These are complementary.

Two different mindsets are being targeted. On FB, the kind of stuff that is trending and the things people are interacting with are entertainment and offers. On LinkedIn, you are talking about cloud computing, and not what you drank last night. It is a mass-market play versus a more focussed, professional play.

Q. Are Indian SMBs warming up to LinkedIn as in the West?
There is an uptick in both the number of SMBs coming on our platform as well as the number of people targeting SMBs through it. For SMBs, the consumer web is a democratising force. They can reach the right audience without spending on 50,000 different events. SMBs are engaging with customers in the same way that a large company would. LinkedIn insights are helping them in hiring talent, building brands and taking their message across. iYogi, which is a small ITES player, used our tools to figure out what research they should do and where they should put their money. They saw great results in their click-through rates. We are seeing millions of SMBs on our platform.

Q. Is LinkedIn still being perceived as just a job-hunting site?
We have 7x more content on the site than jobs. We have four different segments: Consumer business, marketing business, hiring and talent solutions, premium subscriptions. Though the perception remains of us being a job site, it is a wrong way of looking at things. We have the right products. We have enough Indian influencers putting out relevant content. We, as a platform, get them the right distribution. We are tying up with companies to get our tools and message across. Consumers have to see value in LinkedIn and keep coming back to the site.

(This story appears in the 17 October, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)