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If there is any CEO, who the Prime Minister Narendra Modi would like to invest time on crunching out of his busy schedule, it is none other than Akshay Kothari, Country Manager and Head of Product, LinkedIn India. Last September, Narendra Modi met Kothari to know of LinkedIn’s (India) initiatives and ideas that the company is aiming to take ahead, a high point for the India chief of one of the biggest social networking companies in the world.
Kothari isn’t a 40-year-old with an experience of decades in top tech giants like his peers. He is one who sold his start-up at the age of 27 to the same company of which he went on to become the India's Country Manager and Head of Product, LinkedIn India’. Kothari’s robust educational background and an entrepreneurial mind has led him to where he is. But his success at LinkedIn hasn’t been easy. Before Kothari stepped in, LinkedIn only had a sales and engineering team which operated in India. With him on board, a local team was formed to start creating not just features, but full standalone products that are essentially made in India, for India and by India. Products like LinkedIn Lite have been the real growth acceletors for the company.
“LinkedIn has always had a stronghold with mid to senior level professionals. I focused a lot more on early career starters and students, a strategic focus for India. Products like LinkedIn Placements and ‘LinkedIn MTV Get a Job’ have really made a huge difference for that segment,” Kothari says.
Kothari has successfully added close to 10 million members in the first 12 months of his tensure as the CEO. Such success in such a short span has however not been easy. Kothari says he pushes the leadership team to spend a lot of time in the field, to fully get to know what the problems which persist in this country are. “Building empathy for whom LinkedIn is creating products for, aligns it to it’s core vision of creating economic opportunity for every professional in this country,” he adds.
A believer of inspirational leadership, at LinkedIn, one of Kothari’s values is to demand excellence, so he see his job as setting the vision, empowering his leaders and encouraging them to take intelligent risks. Kothari would like to keep the strong momentum to grow LinkedIn among knowledge workers, and expand into blue collar workers via programs like Project Sangam (with Microsoft), in service to our mission of connecting the world’s professionals and making them productive and successful.
(This article was first published in the July issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)