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LinkedIn crosses 15 mn user base in India

As the world’s largest social networking site Facebook Inc., which caters primarily to individuals, faces a slide in stock prices following its initial public offering (IPO), LinkedIn —a networking site that caters mostly to professionals and companies—appears to be holding its own, both globally and in India.Its user base has crossed the 15 million mark in India, according to country manager Hari V. Krishnan. India is LinkedIn Corp.’s largest market outside the US in terms of membership, currently accounting for 9.3% of the site’s overall user base of 161 million.

“This milestone (15 million) demonstrates that professional networking is becoming increasingly important to Indian professionals. In just three years, we have scaled our operations in India and our member base has grown by over 300%,” said Krishnan.LinkedIn started its India operations in November 2009 with a member base of 3.4 million. It is headquartered in Mumbai with an office in Gurgaon and a technology centre in Bangalore, its first such centre outside the US. LinkedIn was founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003.

Krishnan attributed the growth to the tools the site has developed “that help professionals to stay connected, gain insights for their businesses, bag that dream job and ultimately, realize their professional potential. Today’s professional workforce is extremely mobile and we constantly focus on providing these professionals with simple solutions to deliver a seamless LinkedIn experience wherever they are.”

While he did not give details, Krishnan said that a little over 20% of the users connect to LinkedIn through mobiles, “and the number is only growing”. In India, members turn to LinkedIn to keep up with industry discussions, fostering their professional identity, networking with other professionals and learning about companies, according to Krishnan.

A number of high-profile brands, he added, are opting for LinkedIn’s marketing solutions (includes banners, market research and direct marketing tools) “to build conversations and influence with a highly targeted, affluent audience”. He said companies are also “extensively using LinkedIn Hiring Solutions to recruit professionals for various positions in their organization”.

In February 2012, LinkedIn launched localized pricing for hiring solutions in India.In the January-March quarter 2012, hiring accounted for 54% of LinkedIn’s global revenue, followed by marketing solutions (26%) and premium (paid) accounts (20%). While the site does not break up India revenue, it does follow a similar pattern, according to social media analysts.“LinkedIn has shown good growth in India. Our clients get a better return on investment when it comes to recruitments. The quality of resumes is good and we find the profile of professionals more credible than other social networking sites,” said Hareesh Tibrewala, co-founder and joint chief executive officer of digital media firm Social Wavelength.

“The rates for LinkedIn marketing solutions are higher than that for Facebook and Google. But the returns for business to business, or B2B, companies are higher too. The site works for big-ticket items. Moreover, you can slice and dice the profiles of professionals on LinkedIn much better than you can do on (other) similar sites. This helps in targeting audiences more accurately,” said Adhvith Dhuddu, chief executive officer of digital media firm AliveNow.

LinkedIn’s global acquisition of SlideShare this May for $119 million (around Rs.658 crore today) is expected to help advance its cause. SlideShare is a leading professional content-sharing community that was co-founded by two Indians: Rashmi Sinha, its chief executive officer, and Amit Ranjan, its Delhi-based chief operating officer. Founded in October 2006, SlideShare users, according to a company statement, have uploaded more than nine million presentations.

According to comScore Inc., in March, SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors, ranking it among the most heavily visited sites for professional content.“Users can discover presentations through people or the other way round,” said Krishnan, explaining why the site is a good fit for LinkedIn.

The use of social networks has exploded globally and in India. LinkedIn gets around 33% of its revenue from outside the US. Facebook has 51 million users in the country, and more than 900 million globally. Social networks now account for more than 25% of the overall time spent by users online globally, against an insignificant share in 2005, according to a November 2011 report by Avendus Capital.