Based in Bengaluru, it is hard to ignore the action in the Indian information technology (IT) and startup space. My interest in IT, startups and innovation at the incubation stage drives me to explore and write about inspiring entrepreneurial journey for Forbes India. Having worked for over ten years in the field of business journalism and covered everything from the corporate to the social sector, I have learnt to stay on top of news and leverage my experience as a reporter to lend depth and insight to the coverage.
In June this year, technology giant Microsoft Corp announced the acquisition of professional networking platform LinkedIn in an all-cash deal valued at $26.2 billion (around Rs 175,000 crore), which is expected to close by the end of this calendar year. While analysts feel the acquisition is a smart move by Microsoft to ramp up its enterprise business, LinkedIn views it as an opportunity to expand its platform to over a billion Microsoft customers.
In an interview with Forbes India, Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn, says he is confident about product integration between the two companies and that each can leverage the other’s core strengths. During a recent visit to India—LinkedIn’s fastest growing market since it began its journey in the country in November 2009 with over 3.4 million members—Weiner talked about the synergies with Microsoft, LinkedIn’s plans for India and what makes the country one of its key research and development (R&D) bases driving innovation globally. Edited excerpts:
Q. Apart from India, LinkedIn also has country-specific initiatives in China. Give us some details about that.
The motivation behind local innovation efforts is the same—to become even more responsive to opportunities to meet the needs of our members. LinkedIn’s Chitu app in China (in simplified Chinese language) was made in China, for China. The Chitu app was launched in 2015 to better serve the needs of broader segments of professionals living and working in Tier 1 to Tier 4 cities in China. These include career starters or young professionals who may be more comfortable communicating in Chinese, and prefer a more casual approach to professional networking and learning.
Q. Currently, India is seen as one of the burgeoning startup markets in the world. How do you see LinkedIn tapping into this rapidly growing space?
One of the products that we launched recently for the Indian market is the LinkedIn Starter Package, which is customised for startups to facilitate the way in which they hire and brand themselves. We will continue to figure out ways in which we can package the right content for startups cost-effectively.
Q. It is now three months since the acquisition [by Microsoft] was announced. Tell us about the integration and some of the things that you’re looking to do together.
With regard to Microsoft, one of the things that we are most excited about is the ability to expand our platform to over a billion Microsoft customers. There is a lot that can be achieved through product integration with Microsoft Office, Windows and their other platforms. And the way in which we can leverage some of Microsoft’s infrastructure and advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Conversational Computing, etc. We can also leverage on the work Microsoft is doing with voice recognition, video infrastructure and the cloud.
Q. In the long term, how aligned is LinkedIn’s mission with Microsoft’s?
When I first sat down with Satya [Nadella, Microsoft CEO], we were struck by the alignment and sheer sense of purpose and how similar our missions were. And, I think that makes a very strong foundation as we go forward. The next thing that caught my attention was the possibilities in terms of product integration. There were a lot of things that we talked about even in our first meeting. And ever since we signed that definitive agreement, we continue to build on all those ideas. We are even more excited today than we were then.
Q. You met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during your recent visit to India. What are the key takeaways from the meeting?
There’s a lot of alignment in our vision in terms of stimulating and reinforcing the spirit of entrepreneurship, skills development and creating economic opportunities at scale. We particularly talked about developing skills that can help professionals get the jobs of today and the future. We also discussed areas like skills matching and certification where we can work together. Prime Minister Modi also discussed an interesting idea about connecting people in the rural areas with entrepreneurs that can help them further their professional goals.
Q. What advice would you give to India’s new breed of startup entrepreneurs?
My first advice is to be specific in terms of what you are trying to accomplish. Have a clearly defined sense of purpose and focus. Keep an eye on the competitive landscape, but don’t get too consumed with the competition and start playing their game as opposed to playing your own game. Stay focussed. Always come back to the question: ‘If you could do only one thing, what would it be?’ And make sure that you execute and scale that extremely well.