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Homegrown HR website breaks mold with new model

By Yang Cheng and Zhang Shiyi  (China Daily)

16:39, April 01, 2013

While clones of foreign websites have been the bread and butter of the domestic Internet industry, it is rare for a Chinese website achieve success using its own model.

But has done just that.

Dai Kebin, CEO of, said: “The firm, set up in 2006, has seen stunning growth since early 2011, but 2012 could be the best year in its history.”

Last year, its user base quadrupled and revenue tripled.

“This year, we expect to see the same momentum,” he said.

To date, it has 10 million users, and among them are 70,000 individual headhunters dedicated to filling high-profile positions. Some 30,000 head hunters are accredited by the website.

In terms of the number of top headhunters who are members, Lietou outshines competing websites, where traditional talent-scouting solutions still prevail.

Nearly 10,000 headhunting firms have joined the website in China.

With the hope of landing a top position that is only available through a headhunter, a total of 100,000 overseas Chinese have become users as well.

Dai, however, said he does not expect any “exponential growth”, because the target customers for his website are elite personnel, who are very few in number. “Stable growth that meets the demands of customers is what I really expect,” Dai said. Market insiders noted that the emergence of Lietou is likely to reshuffle China’s online job-hunting market, which was previously dominated by the websites 51job, Zhaopin and Chinahr.

Among the three, 51job is the only one that has struggled to make a profit.

According to its 2012 fourth quarter report, 51job’s revenue grew by 7.2 percent last year, but its profit tumbled. The company outstripped others because of its performance in the recruitment market for middle and low-profile human resources. This February, US website Monster, sold Chinahr, its subsidiary to Irish Saongroup because of the website’s poor returns.

This January, Macquarie Capital also sold its stake in Zhaopin because of the site’s diminishing profits.

Lietou’s niche is high-profile headhunters and job seekers with decent work experience, which meets a demand neglected by the other sites, insiders’ say.

They said Lietou’s strength is the largest weakness of the other three. Market analysts even advised 51job to buy Lietou to strengthen its presence in the high-end personnel market.

Dai, who was a brand manager of P&G China, said he was initially interested in building a social networking platform like LinkedIn, but this model was not very profitable in China, he found.

He racked his brain to think of a way to bring about a concentration of headhunters and jobseekers

In addition, talent-scouting firms cannot get results fast through job advertisements listing, but’s services speed up the process.

With funds from angel investor Matrix Partners, a global venture capital firm, Dai was able to take this simple model and grow it into one of the most efficient tools for professionals in the human resources industry. Dai has implemented 16 privacy-protection solutions for the site’s users, including telephone transfer by a 400 service.

He said he hopes that within the next five years, every high-profile jobseeker in China will be a member of his site, but he added that there are many challenges to overcome before he can achieve this goal.

China’s 30 to 40 million mid- and high-level personnel have no need for another place to browse job listings. Instead, they want closer contacts with headhunters, he said.

His headache is to “embrace the day-to-day chances in China’s job-hunting market and the escalating demand from mobile phone users”.

Dai’s early customer base was mainly concentrated in leading cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Now he is finding more users in second-tier cities, including Chengdu, Nanjing, Dalian and Qingdao. His team is busily developing products and services to meet the demands of people in those areas.

China has taken the lead in the world in terms of the growth of smart phone users. It saw a stunning growth of 50 percent in 2012.

His company is offering new services that allow users to check up-to-date information anywhere at anytime. His firm is the first partner with Weixin, a Chinese social networking site, to offer an individual app service for users.

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