LinkedIn is about connecting talent with opportunity at a massive scale: Deep Nishar, VP
Apart from global business and political leaders, students and managers, new LinkedIN users include ballet dancers, lawyers and yoga professionals.
Apart from global business and political leaders, students and managers, new LinkedIN users include ballet dancers, lawyers and yoga professionals. Even as the network expands, LinkedIN is adding new features to make it more relevant to the community at large-that includes professionals, advertisers, recruiters and so on.
ET caught up with Nishar, one of the three SVP's at the professional networking site to discuss a spectrum of issues-from relevance of LinkedIN to its users, trends in professional networking and more. Edited excerpts:
How would you assess the rise of professional networking and of LinkedIN. Was there a missing gap in the professional networking arena that you identified?
While I would like to take the credit for it I think the credit goes to our founders, Reid Hoffman and co., who co-founded the company in 2002. The focus was very singular.
He understood that there was a very large opportunity in creating a social network for professionals with that context in mind. He was also an early investor in Facebook and so he understood that space.
I think what we were able to do in the last four years was take that vision, operationalize it and execute it by focusing on that opportunity in the professional context.
On the business side, we focused on creating a bull's eye approach with Talent Solutions as a center and Marketing Solutions and Premium Subscriptions adjacently. That increased focus and higher degree of execution is what brought us from 32 million members to 187 million members today.
In India we were 3.4 million three years ago and now we are more than 17 million. Growth has been very good. Our revenue in all of 2008 was $79 million and we ended the last quarter at $252 million. Revenue at the end of 2011 was $522 million.
Users are just putting up their CVs or are they doing any meaningful professional networking?
There is a misperception that people come to LinkedIn just to find jobs. Finding the right opportunity is an important activity but there is five times as much activity which is non-job related. For every minute spent looking for a job, there are five minutes spent doing something else on the site.
So, what else are they doing?
They are reading news, following thought leaders and influencers, participating in groups, there are activities they are undertaking which are professionally oriented. Like, looking for leads, finding references for business opportunities.
IT professionals were among the first ones to use the platform. How has it expanded?
LinkedInstarted in Silicon Valley so a lot of technology professionals logged on. We are well represented across every segment. The fastest growing segment right now is students. Some of the fastest growing countries are Brazil and India.
In terms of products, the three key pillars of our product strategy are simplify, grow and everyday. We develop all our products along these lines and keep our value proposition constant.
Simplify is about enabling professionals on LinkedIn to be productive and effective. If you want to do a reference check on somebody we want you to be able to do that.
If you want to read the top five stories relevant to your industry, we want you to be able to see that. We have revamped our homepage, profile, search options and few other main properties.
The second pillar, growth, for us is growing our member base, enabling our members to grow themselves. It is also about making it easy for our members to connect and get the insights that they want.
The third, Everyday, is about how we provide value to our members on a daily basis. Professionals look for jobs only 4-5 times in 30-40 years of professional life, but they manage their careers everyday.
We want to be sure that are relevant to them and provide value to them everyday. And that is why over 2.6 million companies have a presence on LinkedIn's company pages.
Besides, our thought leadership series is meant to enable professionals to see what is going on, on a regular basis. So the 150 plus thought leaders that are on LinkedIn are professionals who are very passionate about what they do and want to share their knowledge and wisdom.
You have map of a person's career - in the span of their working life the number of times they change jobs and what kinds of jobs they do. How are you leveraging this information?
Weuse this in multiple ways. For example, we have an Alumni Page on which you can see what your college mates are currently up to (in India, LinkedIN recently tied up with IIM Ahmedabad). It is an easy way to find out who is in which field now.
What this helps you do is that, when you are about to graduate out of college you can reach out to your alumni for career guidance. For companies, we enable them to search for people basis characteristics like where have they been working before, which college they studied in, etc.
What is LinkedIN's revenue model?
We have three lines of business - Talent Solutions which contributes to 55% of our revenue (globally more than 16,000 customers use this) that is people effectively hiring using LinkedIn.
25% comes from Marketing Solutions which is advertising sales as well as an array of marketing related solutions. 20% is premium subscriptions which is individuals, small and medium business enterprises that buy subscriptions to get additional features on the site.
How important is it for the 17 million members and even others to be on LinkedIn?
It is very difficult to find somebody who hasn't derived value from LinkedIn in some meaningful way even when they were not expecting. I'll give you an anecdote - A friend's dad retired from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) several years ago. He was an engineer and kept watching the space for new trends.
He joined a group of electrical power professionals. There were people asking questions where he could help. So you see, even a retired professional is finding value by empowering the next generation by the knowledge he has accumulated over the years. That is the power of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is not about finding a job, it is really about connecting talent with opportunity at a massive scale. If this was just a job site, it would be a good business but would never be a company that aims to be there even for 100 years from now. And that is what LinkedIn aspires to be.
Do you see your base expand with surge in adoption of low cost smartphones and tablet computers in India?
Generally speaking, LinkedIn usage being largely work-related, starts at about 8.00 am in the morning, goes on throughout the day and tapers off toward 6.00pm. On the other hand LinkedIn on iPad has a double peak.
Being a coffee and couch device first peak happens between 6.00 - 8.00 in the morning and the second peak happens between 7.00-9.00 in the evening. This enabled us re-think the way we thought about iPad. Rather than providing an exact same experience that users see on their work-station, we gave a different experience on the iPad.
That different experience was more focused on the integration with their calendar. So that in the morning they can look at their day and see who exactly they are meeting, get information about them and run a background check with the integration with their calendar.
The front screen of the app is all about the news that matters to them and the top headlines that happened while they were sleeping. In the evening, we give them opportunity to browse through in an easy fashion about everything that has happened during the day. We designed our iPad app around the usage pattern of the members and that's the value we are getting.
In India there roughly about 60 million professionals in the organized sector, what is your strategy to tap the others in the unorganized sector?
We are making LinkedIn more and more available in various languages. In India as we grow, we will look at the local languages here as well and make sure that we are more accessible.
What's the profile of people that you have on LinkedIN. Is it largely students and mid-management people?
Michael Dell (Founder Dell Inc), Richard Branson (founder Virgin Group), Barack Obama (US President), David Cameron (British PM) are on LinkedIn. The thing right now is that if you are not on LinkedIn you are missing out.
What did Barack Obama get out of LinkedIn?
When he first started thinking about his healthcare reforms, he wanted to understand what the real issues were. American professionals set up a group on LinkedIn, ran polls, question & answer discussion group.
The first poll that they put in had more than 3,000 responses in less than a day. They were using it as a forum to figure out the real impact the policies would have on the people of America. David Cameron wrote a whole piece on the effect of global warming and energy independence.
Think about it, like at the end of the day everyone needs to market what they are pitching, whether it's a policy, their company, a brand or their ideas. Where else in the world will you get an influential audience?
You have about 100 employees in India. What do they do? Do they support global operations or only local?
They do both. We have the Slideshare team in Delhi that supports the product globally. And an R&D centre in Bangalore which is our first centre outside of the US. They do engineering operations for the company.
Are you hiring more people in India?
We always look at all the possibilities; we want to be where talent is. We want the best talent in the world wherever we go.