LinkedIn focuses on growth in Asia with launch of Singapore office
Business social network LinkedIn has signalled its intent to grow its userbase in Asia with the opening of its Asian Pacific headquarters in Singapore. The company, which IPOed at $3.3 billion and recently pass 100 million members, is the de facto business network in Western markets but has seen patchy success in Asia where fellow Western social networks Twitter and Facebook have thrived over the last two years.
The local office, which will be located in the central business district, will focus on both the local and regional markets, said Arvind Rajan, LinkedIn’s managing director and vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan.
Rajan, who will relocate from LinkedIn’s U.S. headquarters in Mountain View, California, said he is currently interviewing candidates for regional leadership roles before building the rest of the team including finance, human resources and marketing directors.
Singapore will mark the third office to be established in the Asia-Pacific region, after India and Australia, and another in Japan will be ready later this year, he added.
Rajan said Singapore was chosen as a local office and a regional hub to drive expansion in Asia because it is located closer to many of the company’s major markets in the region. He added that many of LinkedIn’s global customers including multinational corporations have regional headquarters here.
The country is also a talent hub for Asia and its economy is built around talent, which is a “natural synergy” with what LinkedIn does–that is, to connect talent with opportunities, he said.
Added to that Singapore is a very attractive proposition for any company looking for an office in Southeast Asia with attractive tax rates, freer restrictions on expatriate workers and other perks.
In making the move to Singapore, LinkedIn joins Facebook – which opened its APAC office in September last year – and Google – resident since 2007 – while the venture in Japan mirrors Twitter – which recently appointed a dedicated country manager and enjoys a successful set-up in Tokyo in association with Digital Garage, the firm that will be assisting LinkedIn in the country. In fact both LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman and Twitter’s Biz Stone sit on Digital Garage’s advisory board.
LinkedIn’s reasoning for choosing Singapore as its base is sound – the country is the business HQ hub for the Southeast Asian region and penetration of the social network is high in the country – as is its timing. Facebook and Twitter have made huge progress across Southeast Asia, opening markets like Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and more to western social networks, while local favourites like Friendster and Hi5 have been ditched.
The result of this (mini) social media ‘revolution’ is that Southeast Asians’ social media preferences and behaviours are suitably advanced and matured to give LinkedIn a sound platform to grow in the region. Had they made the move one or two years ago, the low adoption rates of Facebook and Twitter, and preference of local favourite, would likely have proven a stiffer test for LinkedIn.
When you consider the success that the newly launched LinkedIn share button, and other ‘social-networkifying’ new features – such as “LinkedIn Today” news bulletins – and there are clear synergies with the social networks that have come to dominant the Southeast Asian region.
Finally to the LinkedIn launch event which was an equally timely and well executed move. The evening brought together online influencers from across the web in Singapore last night, a fitting way to locally launch a business network based on…influence.
It will be interesting to watch how LinkedIn does across the Southeast Asian region where – Thailand and others aside – language tends not to be a major issues as English fluency rates are (reasonably) high while languages make use of Romanic alphabet. For other markets – such as Thailand and more notably China – language is likely to be far more of an issue.
China, of course, brings with it LinkedIn clones – but you would expect that a separate strategy will be cooked up for growth in the Chinese market where, let us not forgot, LinkedIn was blocked and then unblocked sparking fears in the run up to its IPO that it might be blocked out of China.
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