In addition to the infrastructure, I saw the youth power. The youth of India which had become much more expressive and found that to be a perfect time to venture into this domain. A research conducted by us concluded that the Indian youth cared the most about their career and friends, surprisingly even more than their families. Hence, the idea settled and ApnaCircle came into existence in the year 2006.
2. How difficult was it to define the market size in the domain that waits for a change in consumer behavior?
Answer: Almost 3/4rth of the Indian population is youth. Like mentioned by me earlier, research concluded that the Indian youth cared most about their career and friends. This chunk of youth was vividly expanding the horizon of dotcom industry in the country. They were the right ingredient for a perfect recipe.
3. You mentioned ‘glocal’ strategy about Apnacircle at different points of time. But Apnacircle is not about content; it’s mostly about jobs and networking. How does that ‘local’ angle help?
Answer: The glocal approach is a global plus local strategy that the Group has. We focus on leveraging and honoring the local language, business and culture of our members.
We believe, 80% of networking happens locally and 20% happens globally. We do believe global networking is important and hence the global angle. At ApnaCircle or at any social network the users do consume content, hence the glocalization is also about content. It is only when content is read, is when it spreads locally. On our site, we have a feature called the ‘Smart News’ where a user could personalize the news he receives and could get relevant news even out of his circle of contacts. So content definitely is important.
As far as networking and opportunities are concerned one could have access to them both globally, i.e., in Europe, China, the US and so on as well as in India. Today, even a dhabawala wants to have his presence online and only a local network in that case could serve him better.
4. In an arena that is dominated by LinkedIn and also crowded by the likes of 'peer power', 'brijj', who have an established community base, how difficult is it to differentiate in the consumers’ mind?
Answer: We have long surpassed where brijj and peer power are today. Yes, LinkedIn does have the first mover advantage. However, it is never sufficient for an active or a passive job seeker to have an online presence at only one network.
ApnaCircle’s biggest differentiator, as discussed, is the glo-cal strategy. Another differentiator is that our site serves the younger demography and takes the bottom down approach unlike LinkedIn. Also, Linkedin is for english speaking users, however our group’s focus is the non-english speaking countries as well.
Moreover, networking for professionals does not end at one portal or network. Do we only participate at a single discussion and leave out the rest? If I am a professional I would want to participate at all the present forums and discussion groups. Unlike social networking, professional networking is all about connecting and networking with unknown people at times. Take the example of an active job seeker, he would want to visit various portals, look for different opportunities and connect with varied professionals with similar or different backgrounds. An online space not only gives the user an e-presence but also business intelligence and I do not think one portal alone could give all of it. Also, it is like a ROI (return on investment) so the more you invest in yourself, the more are the returns you can expect.
5. In ApnaCircle users earn points on activities and simultaneously get to redeem them at Apnacircle. I understand most of these products come from corporate houses that look at providing free samples to users for promotion. Do you charge these corporate houses for the sample base you provide?
Answer: We did have associations and tie ups in the past, but currently we do not. The point system was initially introduced to entice the user. We look at re vamping the same and make it more interesting.
6. At a time when ‘e-commerce’ is the buzz of the industry, and e-commerce players are getting a billion dollar valuation – why didn’t you try leveraging the existing community base and launch an e-commerce shop?
Answer: I definitely look at foraying into an opportunity with the dotcoms. Being a platform we invite the e-commerce players to tie up with us. We already have our API platform in place (dev.apnacircle.com) using which they could connect and reach out to a huge data base which has the purchasing power.
7. For a model like this, there are generally two evident revenue streams – charge the users for customized services or charge the recruiters for enhanced benefits. What are you aiming at?
Answer: Both and more. We plan to launch the Recruiter and User premium in India soon. Other revenue models and verticals apart from these are in pipeline.
8. Tell us about what users can expect from Apnacircle in the coming days.
Answer: We are working a lot on the product. So the energies are currently driven towards accelerating growth and sales. We believe in the power of mobile and recently launched our Blackberry app which could be downloaded from a blackberry at ‘d.apnacircle.com’ or at blackberry store.
Up in line next is the android app. The users can expect some new features on the site, we are looking at enhancing an individual’s profile by adding skills and other features to it. We recently revamped few sections of our profile feature and introduced a profile timeline for the users. We have revamped the Recommendation feature too, and also given a new name to the Groups (which were earlier Forums and Communities)
The idea is to listen to the user and to make the product more user friendly. Being a global network the turnaround time for a new roll out is a lot. There are a lot of global features and feasibilities we d to look at. But we are working and are keeping at it and in the coming year our users will see a lot of changes and improvements in the interface.
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