LinkedIn’s “Jewel in the Crown”

The professional networking site isn’t just a big hit in developed countries—it’s growing like gangbusters in emerging nations like India.

by J.D. Gershbein, from

Enigmatic and multi-dimensional, India is a land of aesthetic splendor and stark contrast. It is a place that at once arouses the senses and titillates the psyche.  Framed by the Himalayas to the north, the Indian Ocean to the south, and sharing borders with six countries, its expansive countryside is punctuated by mountain ranges, urban landscapes, deserts and beaches.

From its dense, over-crowded metropolitan centers to its quaint, dirt-road villages and sparsely populated outreaches, India is a hotbed of diversity and culture.  India is also a global business hub that is consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Indian professionals have taken to digital media and social networking, and have embraced Linkedin as an engine of business development. On June 20, 2011, LinkedIn claimed approximately 10 million registered users in India, a level which increased to 12 million on November 15, 2011.

The majority of Indians on Linkedin comprise the fields of information technology and related services, computer software, telecommunications, and financial services. Males dominate the demographics of a workforce in which engineering, IT solutions, sales, operations and academics are the primary job descriptions.

Receptive to the meteoric rise in use, Linkedin has established offices in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, and a new technology center in Bengaluru, the first facility of its kind outside the United States.

Business Philosophy

The United States can learn much from India. The latter has a savings mindset and possesses an acute sense of risk and reward. Indians feel that risk tolerance should be proportional to outcomes. They downplay materialism and view the spendthrift leanings of the United States as socially irresponsible. Indians also tend to follow a strict protocol, especially in the workplace, but are also encouraged to be creative.

Although India continues to study business models in the U.S., the former has adopted its own unique global business persona and is forging a path to growth, stability and sustainability. Indian executives are pragmatic, globally focused, conscientious leaders who know what it takes to drive engagements to the next level. They support their American counterparts and welcome the opportunity to
exchange ideas with them.

There also exists a huge subpopulation of collaboration-minded, tech-savvy young Indians who expand on the old school ways of business and strive for a high quality of work. They understand the outsourcing process, demonstrate maturity beyond their years, and command excellent knowledge of English. This new breed of Indian professional is fascinated by the U.S. business infrastructure
and seeks to incorporate more of what they observe on Linkedin. It is a view that encompasses lifestyle as well as business, one that finds its outlet in the free expression of thought that the digital space provides.

The Indian Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in India, with many business owners stepping up as thought leaders, asserting themselves in multiple industries, and penetrating new markets. They view the U.S. as an IT leader by virtue of its marketing prowess, and have aligned themselves accordingly, eager to learn how to design, implement and execute strategies in similar fashion.

They also have turned to social networking to facilitate this learning. Manish Kannan, Founder and CEO of MLeads Consulting, a Pune-based provider of business development strategies for IT clients seeking entry into global healthcare markets, believes in leveraging digital technology to connect with like-minded people.

Kannan is a dedicated Linkedin user who has accomplished many business objectives on the site and feels that it is wise for American businesspeople to form strategic alliances with Indian business professionals.

“India has bridged the gap and can promote to a global audience,” explains Kannan. “We have opened up new channels for companies wishing to expand their initiatives and validate their enterprises.” Reciprocally, he affirms that

Indians no longer view travel to the U.S. as a holiday destination, but with the express purpose of building meaningful relationships and expanding business operations.

Social Networking Style

Kannan acknowledges that social networking in India is real world networking and many times there is no separation between what is on the computer screen and what plays out in the boardroom. The fundamental differences in business culture between the two countries cannot be ignored on Linkedin, and are most noticeable in their respective network building strategies.

In India, the approach to the C-Suite is more deliberate and requires a bit of diplomacy. On Linkedin, there is a chasm between top executives and those perceived as subordinates. The willingness to connect is not as prevalent as it is
in the U.S.

“Connecting with decision makers in India is not easy,” explains Kannan. “In the United States, one does the proper research, devises an appropriate message, and lets it flow. In India, the movements are more reserved. You cannot connect with a CEO unless you contribute value.”

Linkedin has been instrumental in diminishing this resistance by creating an environment in which leaders feel more inclined to share and connect.

Branding Emphasis

India is becoming more receptive to Linkedin convention, but in an altogether different context. Indian professionals know the value of Linkedin as a branding platform, but are not drawn to specific ideologies and resist the overt self-promotion that it affords. Naturally, they wish to build their brand, but are conditioned to do so without fanfare and/or bias.

This is why thought leadership is slow to develop and a deep follower base is difficult to accumulate. According to Kannan, Indians pay more attention to the emotional intelligence gained through Linkedin and patiently establish their brand. “The process is for one to give first, develop the relationship, and then discreetly attract attention to oneself. In India, business does not happen overnight.”

India is a country that leverages technology well and is at the forefront of product innovation, implementation and execution. It currently ranks third among all countries represented on Linkedin in the number of unique visitors (not number of LinkedIn profiles) per month. The Indian economy continues to thrive and offers untold potential for companies that want to globalize their products, services and enterprises.

J.D. Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications is a specialist in the art and science of LinkedIn.  Drawing upon his background in marketing communications, industrial psychology, neuroscience, broadcast media, and improvisational comedy, he is inspiring opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business.

J.D. is considered a pioneer in LinkedIn instructional design and is a national keynoter, breakout presenter and workshop facilitator.    J.D. is also an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business where he teaches the school’s first-ever course in social media.  His first book, a treatise on LinkedIn communication strategies is due out in 2012.

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