New Delhi: Gurvesh Sanghera will graduate this year from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kolkata. He has already received an offer to work with HSBC in London.
At IIM-Ahmedabad, Jatin Mamtani will probably join Lehman Brothers in New York, where he worked last summer.
The investment bankers-to-be are likely to be among the highest paid of the 2007 batch. But don’t dare ask them how much.
Every placement season, the S-word makes the rounds, from hostels to headlines: salary. While offers are expected to be higher by 15-20% this year, institutes seem to be trying harder to give the chattering public less to chew on. Some have issued gag orders on salary discussions. In other cases, students themselves say it’s high time everyone stopped asking, “how much are you making?”
“I am not interested in disclosing my salary,” says Sanghera. “There were all kinds of incidents that happened last year.” The families of some students, goes the buzz in B-school circles, received extortion calls.
At IIM-Ahmedabad, among India’s best business schools, last year’s graduates earned an average of Rs9.72 lakh ($21,600) a year if they stayed in India and an average of $92,500 overseas.
Last year, one of the the highest offers to a B-school student was made at IIM-Bangalore: $193,000. Now, with placements less than a month away, the institute has imposed an official curb on discussing compensation—students are not supposed to discuss even among themselves. Placement chairperson Sourav Mukherji says skyrocketing salaries across India have made for an unhealthy climate on campus, from leaks to the media to students sizing each other up by a number.
Students interviewed at IIM-Ahmedabad say they are under a similar gag order, although school officials would not confirm it.
“Students who come to IIM-Ahmedabad are not playing Kaun Banega Crorepati,” says Piyush Kumar Sinha, IIM-Ahmedabad’s chairperson for placements. “They are here to work hard.”
With top students fielding multiple offers, universities also say salary negotiation is becoming a private affair between the candidate and the recruiter. “Let alone disclose salary figures, we will not even collect these figures from companies who come for placements,” says Mukherji.
Other observers criticize companies and universities alike for bloating salary data. Indian School of Business Professor Kavil Ramachandran says he has seen salaries inflated by training costs, overseas travel and performance-linked bonuses.
“When companies come for placement, they do not clearly state the cash part of it,” Ramachandran says. “Details are not articulated. Sometimes they don’t want to be seen as offering lower than their counterparts.”
ICICI Bank’s recruiters have criss-crossed the country in recent weeks for both senior- manager-level and entry-level placements. Human resources manager Shalini Nandwani says depending on the institute and experience, students fit into various grades that determine their pay. Gone, she says, are the days when you could say a branch manager earns a certain amount, while a software engineer earns another.
“Salaries everywhere have changed. The sector has changed,” she says. “We do not have anything in writing saying you can’t discuss this (salaries). But it is generally not advisable. It creates rifts among people.”
Yet business schools might find it hard to stick to their resolve as graduates’ average salaries are one of the few measures the schools have in their battle against each other for talent. In the absence of a sound Indian counterpart to the college rankings put out by magazine U.S. News & World Report, business schools in India rate themselves by releasing salary figures of graduates. Attractive salary numbers mean a better reputation, and may also translate into higher-quality students applying next year.
Faculty members, however, say there are better ways to rate institutes, including lists of job profiles and responsibilities of graduating students in the marketplace. “Students are being offered the same jobs as a graduate from Harvard,” says Sinha of IIM-A.
Alumni of the institutes, especially those who have gone to work overseas, say B-schools should follow international etiquette on salary: that is, to consider it a private matter. They also suggest disclosing salary ranges rather than specific numbers.
Gourang Agrawal, a 2001 batch student of IIM-Bangalore, was recruited on-campus by Barclays Capital. He now works in the investment bank’s London office and says he told no one how much he was offered when he graduated. Still, he says, there were “on-campus rumours”. “ It is only in India that salaries get quoted,” he says.
Besides, he says, everybody already knows the worth of IIM graduates. “IIMs have reached a level of maturity where global firms are recruiting in a big way,” he says. “They should comply with global norms on compensation.”