After acquiring LinkedIn in December, Microsoft announced on Wednesday Project Sangam, an integrated cloud service, to help reach and train middle and low-skilled workers in India.
The new product exemplifies the professional network's efforts to extend its appeal beyond urban professionals to include the broader workforce around the world. India is a particularly ripe market with more than 460 million internet users, currently, and potentially three times that many not yet connected.
Sangam, which means coming together in Hindi, is a project "born out of what we observed uniquely in India," Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said on Wednesday at Future Decoded, a Microsoft conference in Mumbai meant to help businesses take advantage of digital technology.
“[It] is the first project that is now the coming together of LinkedIn and Microsoft, where we are building this cloud service with deep integration with LinkedIn, so that we can start tackling that enormous challenge in front of us of how to provide every person in India the opportunity to skill themselves for the jobs that are going to be available,” Mr. Nadella said.
The service, which is currently in a private preview and is tailored to the country’s markets, aims to “capitalize on the career-oriented platform’s growth in the region, where it has thus far managed to accumulate 39 million members,” according to Digital Trends.
It is designed to work on commonly slow and metered internet connections in India and integrates another new product called “LinkedIn Lite,” a version of the website that runs faster on low-cost smartphones.
In addition, the new product will run on IndiaStack, a digital platform that utilizes the biometric and demographic database Aadhaar – a unique project that has also drawn criticism from privacy advocates in recent years as it collects information such as fingerprints.
"We will allow people to enroll through Aadhaar cards and later utilize LinkedIn to manage their profiles," Nadella said.
“A cloud-based solution for skill development and employment,” as Nadella called it, Project Sangam allows its users to grow their network and career in their preferred sectors such as hospitality and auto from courses in “LinkedIn Training and Tutorials.”
With this job training feature, the initiative adds to LinkedIn’s latest expansion efforts, as the employment-orientated network shifts away from focusing on networking to include more tools for career advancement and industry news. The company in September launched “LinkedIn Learning,” an educational tool that offers more than 9,000 courses, and expanded its new feed, as it now send users breaking news alerts.
These new steps, along with the move to join Microsoft, underscores the tech company’s mission to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful, and ultimately help create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce,” LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner wrote in an open letter to his team in December after the acquisition.
Nadella’s speech also included the launch of “Skype Lite,” a version of the video interaction platform that consumes less data, hoping to empower local small businesses, according to a local Indian newspaper.
"If digital technology is only the purview of the large businesses and the start-ups, I think that is not sufficient for an economy to make progress," he said. "We can celebrate technology, but if it doesn't truly empower every Indian and every Indian organization to achieve more...we would have achieved nothing.”