Mumbai: With five million registered users in India, Hari V. Krishnan says it makes sense for LinkedIn, a networking website for professionals, to start an office in India. Krishnan, the company’s country manager, is now in the process of setting up a sales team to achieve the targets it has set, one of which is to educate a large number of younger Indians on why they need to get connected.
But Krishnan, who used to be a competitive tennis player at the school level, has a far more challenging immediate responsibility—to finalize an office space in saturated Mumbai. Edited excerpts:
Wide reach: Krishnan says being able to look at the third degree of networking is compelling. There are over eight million professionals he personally can reach out to through LinkedIn. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
What brings LinkedIn to India?
It is one of the strongest growing regions for us globally. In November 2009, we had 3.4 million registered Indian users. A few weeks ago, we crossed five million. Our focus is three-pronged: awareness, engagement and monetization.
We have been cash-flow positive for the last few years, which is a by-product of delivering quality to customers. We are going to understand what our users think. This is where rubber meets the road. We have an anal focus on product performance. It’s not a value addition; if it doesn’t perform, a lot of people get upset. That’s where a local team comes in to amplify the platform.
How do you plan to spread this awareness?
There will be a mix of local marketing and (the) local marketing of global partnerships. The key is to make sure it is useful to Indian professionals who see value in this and are not taking it for granted. Larger numbers of people, who will not see an immediate value unless educated, will look at us with the same lens as a job board or social network. We straddle all these worlds.
How does LinkedIn make money?
There are broadly two sources of revenue: We call one marketing solutions, which include advertisements, self-served products such as polls and job postings. The second is hiring solutions—a sweeter product built around LinkedIn recruiters, which is a completely different user interface to LinkedIn.com. It allows recruiters to be able to access talent and help them manage it. We monetize this: In India, a number of large companies are paying us.
Historically, advertising, user subscription and software licensing or recruitment solutions each contributes about one-third to the revenue. But in India, in the next year or so, more than one-third of the revenue would come from (the) recruitment stream.
Is there more space for recruitment now than last year?
In my opinion, there was never any recession, just a slight slowdown. Technology will be a strong vertical for LinkedIn, with lots of interest from the financial sector, media and diverse fields, such as pharmaceutical companies, to find talent across age groups that makes 2010 exciting.
We are talking of a million jobs being created in India this year, with the emphasis on cost and time to hire. It’s a competitive space—if you identify that key talent, it’s unlikely you are the only one who did.
On LinkedIn, they can see the networks, groups the candidate is part of, questions they answer, and who endorsed them. Every recruiter is concerned about (the) quality of people they get, about exaggerated resumes. LinkedIn cannot protect them, but there are checks and balances. Since you are stating this in a public forum, there is only so much exaggeration possible.
How do you identify yourself as being different from a job portal?
If you have a profile on LinkedIn, it has nothing to do about looking for job. We have a large number of passive candidates. That becomes attractive to someone from HR (human resources), who finds the passive candidate utopian because they are not desperate and will not lie.
...and from a social networking site?
Social and professional networks can coexist. Someone at LinkedIn described it well: There is an unwritten social contract, which tells you how to behave in professional and social set-ups.
We are not offended by being clubbed under social networking for professionals. People who really use LinkedIn well, use it as a core productivity tool, not something to spend time on or connect to people. There are many Indians using it for business development, market research and sales.
Why would someone get on the network?
Being able to look at the third degree of networking, there are over eight million professionals I personally can reach out to through LinkedIn. That’s compelling. Most leads are made through the connections of your connections or further out. Three degrees is where the punch happens.
Senior professionals were immediately able to see the value to this network. To younger persons, because they haven’t yet understood the value of a professional network, it has taken a longer time coming. Some of the burden falls on us as a company to educate people across age groups in a thoughtful manner.
For example, a pharmaceutical researcher working on molecular discovery in Bangalore created a poll targeted at north Europe, which has most of his clients, and asked technical questions. The goal was marketing, not market research. He did not care about the response. Typically, people add comments; so he got lots with the person’s name and designation. He got free business development, which he now wants to build up on and advertise.