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'It Is An Interesting Time To Be In India'

In a chat with Naina Sood, LinkedIn India Country Manager and Head Of Product, Akshay Kothari, says a big portion of the company's global numbers are driven by its Indian members, who are apparently the most active job seekers in the world

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In a chat with Naina Sood, LinkedIn India Country Manager and Head Of Product, Akshay Kothari, says a big portion of the company's global numbers are driven by its Indian members, who are apparently the most active job seekers in the world.


Akshay, I want to begin by asking you about the latest trends in the job market. How is the hiring Sentiment in the country? Is it bullish at the moment?
I will take a very objective view with the number of jobs that are there on our platform and the openings the way they are growing, I would say that it's probably the best it's ever been. Now whether these openings will be filled and the companies would be able to source the same, that is a challenge. The better we get with people understanding these opportunities and locating them, it gets better for the country. You hear people complaining where are the jobs and at the same time hear companies say that there are not enough people. We get that a lot on our platform and this is what we call the skills gap.

Also there is a lot of disruption happening in the job market due to automation and other things. The functions of the job is changing very quickly. So, unless people are up-skilling themselves to get ready, they will find it very hard to get the future jobs.

So what according to you is the big challenge in the job market for India, apart from skill development?

There is a certain segment where India needs to focus more on- the younger demographic. A recent report by OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) says that 30% of Indians between the age of 15-29 are not in employment or education. This is a little bit alarming. Therefore, helping early career starters is one of the areas we have laid our focus on.

It is a bullish market, but what we can do better is to link what people are studying and what jobs exist. Our data suggests that there is a big gap between that. People are getting trained or skilled in areas where there may or may not be jobs in future. So if we can somehow close that gap to align our education and learning with where the future jobs exist, the country would benefit from it.

This huge gap that you talked about between skills learnt and skills required, does LinkedIn platform plan to enter this space and bridge the same?
Effectively LinkedIn is a market place. We are uniquely positioned to see what kind of opportunities exist for a particular town or state or country. We recently published a report for Bangalore, where we could tell you that out of 2.5 million people, who are on LinkedIn in the city, what skills they have, what skills are becoming hotter or declining. So we give a good view of what the demand side looks like and where the companies are looking for jobs. We have recently and more actively partnered with the government, giving them the above information mentioned, so that they can adapt their public policy based on that.

There are a lot of traditional Indian firms who still do not believe in sourcing people online. How do to plan to break into that market?

We are optimistic about the change. If you see the number of unique people signing up on LinkedIn today, its reach is across the whole country, including tier 1 and tier 2 cities. We have focussed a lot on making LinkedIn very accessible in these cities.

I have a funny story to share. When I moved to India, we went out to do a user research session and went to 4 tier 2 towns - Nasik, Durgapur, Davanagere and Meerut to see the perception of LinkedIn. It was kind of embarrassing when we sat down with the students because 30% of the time, the site would not load due to low internet connectivity. We made this a priority to build up LinkedIn Lite, a mobile website which would be blazing fast even on a 2G connection and most of the Indians have access to the same today.

You recently came out with a list of top social recruiters on your portal. Taking a cue from the same, how has the trend or outlook of the recruiters evolved over the years?
India is at a growing stage in terms of social recruiting. Leveraging the power of networks for warm introductions and building on common connections is so much more valuable than the traditional recruitment process.

Even resumes have become very dynamic these days. The people you meet and connect with, the conversations you have online are probably a lot more interesting to an employer than the piece of paper stating which college you went to and where you worked before.

Going to the other side of the table, how active is the Indian talent?
A big portion of our global numbers are driven from the Indian members, including the unique applications that we have on our site. What we have noticed in India is that people are a lot more active job seekers than the rest of the world, percentage wise. Few months ago, the researcher in the room asked 10 people, 'Who in this room is at their dream position'? and everyone raised their hands. He again went on to ask, 'Who in this room is looking for a job?', and all the hands were raised again.

LinkedIn has been in news for acquiring the London based Are you in talks for the same?

We don't comment on rumours or speculation. We have nothing to announce at this point.

Any other acquisitions or projects in the pipeline for 2017?

In terms of new projects, we are very excited about the recently announced project in collaboration with Microsoft, when Satya was in town, called the Project Sangam. We have a massive amount of people in India who maybe are looking for contract jobs or hourly positions that we don't currently address. It's still in its early stages but would be worth taking a notice of, once it kicks off.

Beyond Sangam, there is a deeper focus on the SMBs (Small Medium Business) for us. Last year was a lot of 'Make in India, for India'. A lot of products that we built for India are actually very applicable for the other emerging markets as well. So, LinkedIn Lite is going to be the first product that would go beyond the country to the other markets.

Akshay, before LinkedIn, you were an entrepreneur and inventor of Pulse, as we all know. Seeing the start-up industry today, which is coming under the negative radar, what are your views…
I want to begin by saying that it's very easy for people on the outside to comment and it's always harder when you are in the game. Because of my entrepreneur roots, I have gone through the struggle, it's very hard to build up these businesses. I am extremely bullish and optimistic on how far the Indian ecosystem has come in the last 10 years, considering that it's such a nascent market and would continue to do well. There have been ups and downs in the start-up's health and the funding, but in general the ecosystem is stronger than ever.

So any particular advice you have for them…
It's hard to generalize these things, but if I have to give only one advice, it would be to remain customer and member centric and focus on whom you are driving value to, by creating these products. Therefore, start-ups or established entities, make sure that the people that are working in your organisation are obsessing about the people they are serving.

On a lighter note, I am sure you must be getting this question a lot, how does it feel to be the youngest amongst your peers.
I think people ask me this because they compare me with the other multinational company's country managers. So yes, I feel kind of young with them. But then I also, hang out with a lot of entrepreneurs, building these amazing companies and feel very old with them. So, I am somewhere in between(*Laughs).

Personally, for me, LinkedIn India is a start up! We are a small organisation, building products to deliver value to our members. We need to constantly evolve and be upbeat with the market and cannot afford to be slow moving dinosaurs in today's world. There are start-ups building up businesses in a garage!