The major business schools have been judged—and have too often judged themselves—on the salaries their departing students get after campus interviews. These institutions have thus become finishing schools for business conglomerates, investment banks and consulting firms.
This newspaper reported on Wednesday that the new recruitment season is likely to be different. Business schools are reaching out to a wider group of potential recruiters, including smaller firms as well as non-profits and microfinance institutions. That’s good news. We do not grudge the conglomerates, investment banks and consulting firms their right to dip into what is undoubtedly the best pool of human talent in the country. But the fact that other organizations—business or otherwise—will now have a fair chance to employ students from the best business schools is an untrammelled good.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The visionary Vikram Sarabhai set up India’s first modern business school in 1961: the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. It was designed to be a school of management rather than a business school, a subtle yet important distinction. Modern societies need organizations as much as they need markets to achieve goals, and this is even truer of a fundamentally chaotic society such as ours. The IIMs were to fill that gap in India.
There is a larger issue here. The financial crisis has led to tough questions being raised about the role of finance in countries such as the US and UK. A subsidiary concern is the social cost of the best brains being sucked into the Wall Street machine. Should the smartest people be designing mortgage derivatives or should they be researching cancer?
There is a liberal dash of envy in such questions. We believe that human capital will respond to prices just as other forms of capital do. Most people will choose the best paying jobs. But it is also possible that many bright young kids have other motivations that will send them into start-ups, non-profits and even the government. Giving them more importance in the placement season is a good idea.
The moves to spread the placement net wider could end once the economy jumps back and the bulge-bracket employers reappear with their eye-popping offers. Till then, Indian business schools have a wonderful opportunity to think hard about what their role in modern India is really all about: nation-building or eager members of a gold rush?
Is money the only motive for B-school students’ career choices? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org