Ahmedabad: It’s a hard sign to miss: a bright red apple in a pile of green ones.
Tacked around campus at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, the colourful flyer describes Milan-based Value Partners Management Consulting, which employs 3,000 professionals of 20 different nationalities, 600 of whom work outside Italy.
And then comes the sales pitch: “We are looking for candidates who are result-oriented, have sound analytical skills, possess intellectual curiosity, and are ready to travel extensively.”
As India’s top-ranked MBA school kicked off highly sought after campus placements, its elite business students found themselves being wooed especially hard by foreign firms, all desperate for talent. Many, such as Value Partners, are newcomers to IIM-A’s placement scene.
In fact, this year’s overwhelming interest from recruiters in finance, consulting, private equity and investment banking led IIM-Ahmedabad to hold two days of interviews in those fields—instead of its usual one. Traditionally, these higher paying sectors get first dibs at business schools as they land the most interviews and tend to be highly selective.
And so “Day 0”—as the two days are oddly being dubbed—unfolded in a gray building closed to the public on a sprawling new campus.
While recruiters set themselves up in classrooms, students gathered in one huge hall and waited their turns, turning the holding area into a sea of black suits and nervous energy. A massive projector above them indicated where candidates were to proceed next. A third of the 2007 batch is expected to be placed in investment banks and consulting firms over the first few days of placements. Both sectors are hiring in hordes and students are similarly clamouring for offers, partly because of the overseas exposure even when the jobs are located within India.
“Students like the challenge of different assignments, different industries that a consultancy offers,” said Luca Ferro, the India-based managing partner of Value Partners, which began its operations here in February 2006. “Normally we solve strategic problems of companies so we tend to interact with top management—that’s the second factor which attracts fresh graduates.”
Companies fight hard to get coveted slots and students earlier in the placements process, often to pre-empt other offers. IIM-Ahmedabad’s placement committee specifically asks on-campus recruiters not to make offers on the spot, but they obey that rule about as much as students heed India’s drinking age.
The scramble for talent “is not just here in India. It’s a global phenomenon,” said Shailja Dutt, managing director of Stellar Search and Selection, an executive recruitment firm. “Maybe the talent crunch is felt more in India because we have so few world-class universities.”
The foreign firms’ interest comes even as opportunities at home are also plentiful. Sunrise areas, such as retail, have emerged a popular choice.
“Retail is the booming sector,” said Shweta Shanbhag, an IIM-A marketing student who already has accepted an offer for RPG Enterprises in its Spencer’s retail division. “I chose to join a small organization where they will respect my managerial role.”
Chicago-based Diamond Management & Technology Consultants has already recruited graduates at IIM-Bangalore and will pitch for candidates at IIM-Calcutta later this week.
“It is turning out to be a good placement season though a tad conservative,” said Rajesh Balaraman, principal in the consulting firm, which also happens to be a technology consultant to Mint’s website. Based on his recruiting experience so far, Balaraman predicts that average salaries will not rise more than 15-17% at business schools this year. But on-campus salary offers were estimated to rise by almost 40% based on other high-growth trends.
Despite the salary increases, a job based in New York or London still pays more—and tends to be the usual source of the Rs1 crore salaries dreamed and gossiped about. Despite opening up their wallets, Indian companies are having to contend with fierce competition from overseas packages.
“It’s really hard,” said Atul Sharma, vice-president for human resources at Citibank’s Indian consumer banking division. “After 20 years of service, my salary is what guys from IIM-Ahmedabad and Kolkata are being offered.”
Still, as India’s booming services sector interacts with dozens of countries on a regular basis, many workers think it makes sense to gain some experience in those countries—and then come back home when they want. Gaurav Sadana, a 2007-batch student at IIM-A, won’t be doing any interviews this week since he dropped out of the final placement process. He already has a job offer to work for a consultancy in India—but he does expect to deal with top brass and travel quite a bit. “The profiles and roles offered by consultancies are very attractive,” he says.Day 0 recruitment continues today.