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Interview > Hari V Krishnan, Country Manager, LinkedIn India

Hari V Krishnan joined LinkedIn India as country manager in 2009 where he heads Indian operations for the world’s largest professional network. He is LinkedIn’s first employee in Asia. His core responsibilities include marketing, strategic partnerships and sales strategies to drive member growth, engagement and monetization. Before joining LinkedIn, Krishnan was country head, India at MySpace. He has also worked in leadership positions at companies like Travelguru and Yahoo India.

Hari V Krishnan joined LinkedIn India as country manager in 2009 where he heads Indian operations for the world’s largest professional network. He is LinkedIn’s first employee in Asia. His core responsibilities include marketing, strategic partnerships and sales strategies to drive member growth, engagement and monetization. Before joining LinkedIn, Krishnan was country head, India at MySpace. He has also worked in leadership positions at companies like Travelguru and Yahoo India. In an exclusive interview with AlooTechie, Krishnan shares his thoughts about monetization of online content in India and the way ahead for LinkedIn in the country.

It is believed that in India monetization of content is more of a reality in offline than online. What is your opinion on this?

Indian marketers are gradually understanding that the online channel offers some unique methods to monetize their content. They also understand that rather than being one homogenous medium, there are multiple marketing opportunities across social media, search engines, portals, classifieds and beyond.

At LinkedIn, we are focused on connecting talent with opportunity. For marketers, this means connecting them with potential customers. We offer some unique solutions for marketers looking to build thought leadership, customer engagement and even generate quality leads using content. We have integrations with content creation platforms like WordPress and SlideShare which enables users to share content to their profiles. All these integrations allow more than 7 million professionals from India to share content and collaborate with professionals from around the world. Once users find value and are heavily engaged in these tools, we provide the lens of relevance and context for advertisers. By targeting the appropriate audience in the correct context, they are able to more effectively reach and engage with their potential customers. This is an effective way to monetize the highly engaged user-generated and user-sourced content present in social media.

What according to you is the current status of online advertising in India? Is brand building possible on internet?

According to IAMAI, the online display advertising market in India was expected to grow to Rs 430 crore last year from Rs 325 crore in 2008-09. The growth in internet penetration is a direct factor contributing to the rise in online advertising spends in India.

Marketing plans executed through the online medium not only reaches wide audiences but also provides measurable insights on user trends and impact of investment. Online advertising cuts through various industry verticals from B2C to B2B brands.

Companies in India are increasingly viewing the internet as a potent platform to engage with customers and gain feedback. The interactive nature of the internet allows for increased user engagement and customizable programmes tailored to the precise needs of a campaign.

What are LinkedIn’s India specific plans for the next two years?

We are currently focused on growing our business in India. Since our launch in December 2009, we have grown from 3.4 million to over 7 million members in India. We have strengthened LinkedIn India’s leadership team with key appointments for our ad sales division. A LinkedIn profile is a member’s professional profile of record, and is often present in the first couple of results thrown up by search engines. We will continue to drive education and awareness of LinkedIn’s suite of talent management tools for professionals enabling them to identify and benefit from career and business opportunities.

With a reach of over 80 million professionals globally, our in-house advertising sales team will continue to directly engage with companies here as well as develop and deliver custom solutions for our customers. Increasingly, we are seeing more companies in India using LinkedIn as an integral part of their marketing mix. Several companies have expressed an interest in getting our guidance on building innovative marketing solutions targeted at a focus audience. As we scale up our business in India, we will also continue to drive awareness about LinkedIn’s offerings of advertising solutions.

You have worked with renowned online publishers in India. How have you seen online publishing evolving in the country?

Online publishing and user generated content has evolved with the growth of platforms which are enabled by internet connectivity. Take for instance, blogs. Blogs or web-logs as they were known in their early days grew with popularity as connectivity options expanded. As we went from dial-up modems to broadband internet connections, improved accessibility enabled more users to post their personal stories, poems, opinions, photos and a lot more, making the internet a personal one-to-many medium. Having evolved from blogging to microblogging, Twitter has shown us the power of 140 characters and status updates. At LinkedIn we saw value in status updates and built an integration that allows our members to post updates that will be beneficial to professionals. We believe that forums such as LinkedIn Groups provide great content as well. Often these rich debates provide a multi-dimensional context to a topic of discussion and thus provide a level of depth missing in an editorial piece written by a single author.

How have Indian publishers used technologies to offer mobile services to their users? What are LinkedIn India’s plans around this?

Mobile usage in India has grown exponentially in the recent past. It is estimated that by 2012, the number of Indians accessing the internet on mobile will grow to 200 million. In order to connect professionals on the go, LinkedIn has developed mobile applications for Palm, iPhone and more recently BlackBerry. These applications are deeply integrated into utilities on the phone such as address book, calendar and inbox. This makes access to LinkedIn network information seamless from the user standpoint. For instance, I can now access LinkedIn profile of someone I have a meeting with via my BlackBerry calendar. This way, I can do a quick lookup just before I step into an important meeting. We see great potential for this platform and we will stay committed to the growth of LinkedIn on mobile.

How do you see online inventory pricing growing over the coming year?

The Indian online industry is maturing and people realize that inventory and success metrics will vary from search engines to portals to social media. One size does not fit all!

Given this, we are seeing marketers keen to understand how best to leverage the various platforms. With our unique mix of highly educated users and best-in-class targeting, LinkedIn has had no problem in justifying a premium pricing. We drive value through a quality audience, relevant viewers and unique solutions.

With marketers seeking overall value rather than just the cheapest deal, we should see the market expand overall. We should also see more innovative marketing campaigns and platforms growing in India.

For those who embrace this change we should see good growth in the coming year.

What are your thoughts on innovations that publishers can offer to clients for advertising their products in a better way? What are LinkedIn India’s plans around this?

With the fast growing economy and a rise in competition, we are beginning to see the demand for increased innovation in marketing solutions.

At LinkedIn, we have seen multiple Indian brands use unique solutions such as sponsored polls and sponsored answers campaigns. Instead of just talking to the customer, they are engaging with the customer and seeing rewards. We have plans to introduce further unique marketing solutions products in the next few months.

Innovation is also coming into the way products are being packaged and sold. Measuring and driving success is a key and educating the users on how best to do this will allow some platforms to do better than others.

For our part, we are going to focus heavily on innovation and educating Indian advertisers on how best to leverage social media. We believe that there is limited understanding on how to use the leading social media platforms, and as the world’s largest professional network, we are happy to take the lead in driving this education.

How important is rich media content from a publisher’s point of view?

Rich media creates interactivity and increases engagement among audiences. I feel that rich media can genuinely enrich an internet experience and depth to how a person views the internet.

In our opinion, rich media can be wonderful if used correctly. Using it in the wrong context or to an irrelevant audience can result in a poor user experience. This is part of the education cycle we will initiate with Indian advertisers in the months ahead.

by Satrajit Sen

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