The world’s largest professional networking site, Linkedin, is sharpening its India focus. With over 2.5 million users from India on Linkedin, it is one of the fastest growing regions for the company. On a year-on-year basis, the Indian user has increased by almost 180 per cent from less than a million. India even surpassed the UK in terms of the total users. Linkedin users from India are largely male IT executives. Education institutes and universities are the networking site’s biggest users. Among the user groups, the University of Mumbai has the highest number of members followed by Delhi University. Among companies, India’s largest IT services firm Tata Consultancy Services leads the pack. Dipchand Nishar, vice-president products — who joined the company early this year after spending over five years with Google as its product development head in the APAC region — tells Shivani Shinde about Linkedin’s plans for the Indian market. Edited excerpts:
What brings you to India?
India is a very important market for us — the fastest growing in the world. We also met some of our corporate clients and advertisers. Moreover, we want to get a sense of the market, our clients, users, among other things. Some of the companies that we work with are Bharti, Nokia, Emirates. The others I cannot name due to confidentiality agreements. Half of our users are outside of the US.
But Linkedin does not have an office in India...
India is clearly an important market and we plan to grow further. We are planning to hire an India country head and are waiting for the right candidate. Once that is in place, we will look at further expansion.
In terms of professional networking, how is the Indian market different?
One of the things in the Indian market is that people are very focused about career advancement and development. They spend a lot more time in networking than many across the world. That is a good trend. I think we need to provide better and relevant tools for every one, right from a graduate to senior level executives. My product vision is centred on three key things — create, connect and collaborate.
How different is Linkedin from Facebook, which is also gaining ground among the recruiters?
We are very clear of our focus. Linkedin is about career advancement and management which is not Facebook’s motto. We are really about enabling our users become better professionals. And we see that distinction among our users as well, as they use each of the networking tools differently. Clearly, they use Linkedin to conduct business. If you look at our demographic, of the 48 million users 46 per cent are decision-makers.
What will be your priorities for the Indian market?
First, would be to grow the numbers. We want to continue to grow and provide value. Second, is getting the right tools and products and creating more engagements. And finally, letting brands create conversation around them. To give you an instance, on Linkedin there are five to seven groups on iPhone and symbian phone development. I think in India the potential for this is huge.
India is a very mobile focused market. Do we see some products from Linkedin as well?
We would. With Palm Pre, we did something unique. We were one of the launch partners with Palm, and have Linkedin application integrated into it. This is the exact kind of relation we are looking at. We are a premium brand and we work with other such brands. We also have an iPhone application. All the other mobile firms are on our shortlist. We would like to work with popular brands like Nokia and others in India.
Would Linkedin look at having a development centre in India like others?
There are some unique opportunities that Indian market has. I think we will see some new products being developed. In India, for instance, the use of SMS and WAP is huge, in terms of mobile usage this market has been in the forefront. We can certainly imagine some unique ideas emerging from the Indian market that can be exported to other markets. We have focus groups which are spending a lot of time in the Indian market.
Do you plan to talk with institutes, considering, they are active on the site?
I think we have a key opportunity in that segment. As career management is key for us. We definitely want to create programmes which can be targeted towards this segment. Our ability to guide students is huge. Like Google as a platform enabled the world to get information. Linkedin also has a similar ability to serve. While anything starts with ‘What you know’, but after that what matters in ‘who you know’.