ApnaCircle.com’s group company Viadeo, the professional social networking conglomerate has raised Series D funding of a whopping $32 million. The funding has been raised through the French Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Fonds Stratégique d’Investissement, existing institutional shareholders, Idinvest and Ventech, and a pool of new investors including Allianz, Jefferies, the global investment banking firm, and Middle Eastern private funds. With this it becomes one of the largest European internet investments of the last 12 months.
To be used for accelerating growth, the major chunk of the investment would go to Europe and China (with its local brand Tianji) as they have a big market scope. The rest would go to key emerging markets of Brazil, Africa, Russia and India (with its local brand ApnaCircle). This investment also puts leverage to Viadeo’s aggressive international development strategy which saw a major joint venture in Russia in the last quarter of 2011.
In an exclusive interview with Pluggd.in, Yogesh Bansal, CEO, ApnaCircle.com said, “Viadeo and its partner brands Tianji and ApnaCircle believe in a multi-local strategy that focuses on leveraging and honouring the local language, business and culture of its members. This also allows the group to gain critical mass and do well in local markets. We want to go below the pyramid as we believe consumers search for 80 per cent local networking and 20 per cent global partnerships.”
ApnaCircle will use the funds for research, product development and sales. “We are doing a lot of research and juggling between many projects, and will announce some remarkable initiatives by June this year. We let people brand themselves and will leave no stone unturned to achieve this aim,” added Bansal.
It is interesting to note that though ApnaCircle.com has stiff competition from LinkedIn it has more than 3.5 million users and are adding 3-4 thousand users every day. “LinkedIn and ApnaCircle are two different networks and channels. We believe that networking for professionals does not end at one portal or site. Our biggest differentiator is our go-local strategy. We serve the younger demography and take the bottom down approach unlike LinkedIn. Also LinkedIn is for English speaking users unlike Viadeo where our core is non-English speaking countries,” concluded Bansal.
Will this investment raise the bar and change trends for professional social networking; in India or globally only time will tell. However, the question that arises is that what is the future of such websites? Will they merge the parameters of professional networking and a job search portals? If yes, where will they stand viz-a-vie acclaimed websites like Naukri and Monster? But that calls for a separate discussion altogether.