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LinkedIn is not entertainment

LinkedIn

Here’s a typical professional profile of a 33 year-old. A B-school grad, a few solid years of experience and placed in the middle management space. And he is definitely looking at opportunities to fast forward his career. And in the echelons of the corporate world, networking and building the right contact is the key to unlocking many a potential professional opportunities. Srinivas Kurma, at 33 is doing all of that. The only difference; he’s doing it as country manager of LinkedIn India. Rather, he’s helping professionals in India network and connect with each other, using LinkedIn.

Who incidentally was the first hire for LinkedIn India operations back in 2009, the journey so far, has been steady. While the Facebooks of the world may boast of more than 500 million to their already burgeoning network of connections, LinkedIn has a user base of 100 million across the globe. And by the time, this issue hits the stands, LinkedIn India will be a 10 million strong user network. Not bad, says Krishnan, considering the user base stood at 3.4 million users in India back in 2009. “There are 40 million white-collar professionals in India and our goal is to connect with all of them. It’s been a good start considering we touch about 25 % of the universe.”
Beyond the numbers, Krishnan is bullish about the quality of the audience frequenting the networking site. He throws in some stats. One in four users is either at director, VP or CXO level. “About 80% of our base influences business decisions and about 40% of our base earn over `15 lakh p.a. This is useful information for marketers and recruiters.” The business model for LinkedIn is based on three pivots – marketing solutions, corporate solutions (providing solutions to recruiters) and the premium account segment.

Even as LinkedIn may be sitting on a 10 million strong user base, the fact remains a vast majority of the network are free users, usually resistant to upgrading to paid services. “Most of the products are built for free users. If the users are getting a lot of value, we can figure out a way to monetise it. The premium account will always be a small percentage of the total user base and it will always be like that.”

Linking Dots

Monetisation is one of the biggest challenges that any player in the networking world faces. And LinkedIn’s journey into the market is no different. Even as the company soaks in a public listing on NYSE immediately acquiring a market cap of around $ 7 bn, it has sparked concerns of whether there’s another dot com bubble in the offing and whether LinkedIn, whose foundations go back during the hubris of the first dot com burst, can sustain itself in the long run.

Recent media reports on social networking site Facebook revealed that the site had big traffic drops in US and Canada and there are enough examples of online ventures that were the toast of the town before they went bust. LinkedIn, has been in existence since 2003. “Longer than any other social networking sites and we are now a credible business where large firms are key stakeholders. It’s more than a trend but a professional tool. People use the platform in their offices or on their android devices and there’s stickiness because of the nature of networking. It’s not entertainment,” adding that India today stands as the second largest market for LinkedIn after the US.

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