Apnacircle has achieved critical mass in the professional networking space. Can it now take the next big leap?

There is more to networking than just being ‘connected’. It is all about being connected to the ‘right’ kind of people, which is the entire basis on which sites like LinkedIn.com stand. Thanks to the advent of social and networking communities in India’s multi-billion dotcom industry, business and corporate networking has become an integral part of working population lives. To tap the growing interest of Indian consumers (rather prosumers) in this niche area of social networking, Apnacircle.com launched itself into the space in 2007 and projects itself as India’s answer to LinkedIn in the 2.0 domain, where user interest and technology change at the wink of an eye. To their credit, the website has got itself an impressive user base of 36 million professionals worldwide. As a joint business venture – ApnaCircle-Viadeo-Tianji-Unyk – the firm holds a global network of over 100 thousand users per month.

ApnaCircle was established by Yogesh Bansal in October 2007. Yogesh completed his MBA from University of North Carolina in 1997 and was working with McKesson Inc. Soon after that, he shifted to India in 2006 and crafted the idea of ApnaCircle. It was his vision, self-belief and conviction in his brand, which helped him to sail smoothly through troubled waters in the dotcom domain. Serial entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia joined in as director a year later. On the inspiration behind the venture, Yogesh exclaims, “The social networking fury in the west, especially US, fueled my idea of starting a business on similar lines in India. Backed with extensive research in this domain and how professionals globally will react to it, I anticipated robust growth in this industry. The key was to research and cater to working youth wants”. Social media had become the buzzword back then in 2006 itself. But ApnaCircle was formed with the aim to specifically be the answer to a boy-next-door’s socialising needs and a professional’s networking needs.

Bansal derives his inspiration from the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. Passion and innovation are two things that drive him and he makes endless efforts to inculcate the same values in his brand. An adrenaline-junkie, Yogesh is someone who loves to live his life to the fullest. ‘Work hard and party harder’ are the four words which describe his approach to life. Yogesh believes that success can never be credited to a single attribute or business model and consists of many ingredients such as belief in yourself, forthright vision, the right team and of course the right product. He further goes on to say that success is all about “solving a problem or a need at the right time and being consistent with it”.

A lot of work went into the formative years of ApnaCircle to ensure that it would be a unique proposition. And that started with deciding the name itself. The core team conducted a lot of polls through questionnaires and did an intense brainstorming before gaining a consensus on the ApnaCircle name. What also went in favour of the name was the earthy feel to it and the instant connect it could make with Indian audiences. Although there were mixed reactions to the desi name, Yogesh was adamant on the same and also derived inspiration from the fact that sites like Naukri.com or Shaadi.com had also achieved unprecedented success with local names. Apnacircle considers its glocal strategy to be a very important part of its positioning. With a combination of global and local professionals on its network, ApnaCircle recently rolled out its Application Programming Interface (API)-based platform, which proposes to uplift the scalability of the website. In this strategic and planned move, they have career opportunities for application developers and for website users. Their ‘go-to-market’ strategy is unique as they always aim at going from bottom to top and not from top to down. This gives ApnaCircle a fairly unique brand positioning.
If some trending global business reports are to be believed, then within two years of time, India’s going to be the world’s largest working population. And 5-year-old ApnaCircle couldn’t have managed to arrive at a better time. Riding high on a mammoth database of 36 million professionals worldwide, ApnaCircle connects 3000-5000 users to the right kind of professionals on daily basis.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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