New Delhi: In his final year at Jaihind College in Mumbai, Moin Danawala worked for Infosys BPO Ltd for a stipend that amounts to just a few movies and dinners out.
MOIN DANAWALA: Age: 20; College: Jaihind College, Mumbai; Goal: To be a research analyst in the short term and a leader in entrepreneurship in the long term. Photograph: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
But he didn’t do it for the money. The business process outsourcing, or BPO, arm of Infosys Technologies Ltd asked him to be a campus ambassador while he was in the college’s placement cell. He found ways to get final-year students to attend informational and myth-busting sessions on working in a BPO.
Earning just about Rs5,000 for the year, his efforts still paid off grandly: Brokerage firm Edelweiss Capital Ltd ended up hiring him as a junior associate.
“Handling tough question-answer sessions was a challenging task, but the opportunity to influence batchmates’ career decisions was gratifying,” he says. “That, along with my experience at Infosys’ campus gave me the confidence to handle the various interviews I have been through.”
Like Danawala, campus ambassadors may not be inclined to join the company represented, but they have become a crucial part of recruitment for BPOs that are trying to win over talent. Infosys has been growing its campus ambassador programme, or CAP, to shatter myths, such as BPO being a bastion of mediocre students full of only call centre jobs, or void of career growth.
“The aim,” says Raghavendra K, vice-president and head, human resources, Infosys BPO, “is to give final-year graduate school interns, a first-hand feel of the fast growing ITeS industry so as to reduce the disconnect between students’ aspirations and industry’s expectations.”
PRAPTI DOSHI: Age: 21; College: Christ College, Bangalore; Goal: Do an MBA from a renowned university and lead a marketing team in the fashion industry. Photograph: Hemant Mishra / Mint
The campus ambassadors, as they are called, helped the company mobilize hiring drives in their cities — and then some got offers themselves. Offer letters were given to top performers like Chandigarh’s Kshitij Minglani, who joined the corporate planning division of the company in Bangalore this year. Having held the post of vice-president with the global student networking group Aiesec and interning with the corporate and social sectors made the transition easier, he said.
Along with home-grown companies in IT and BPO, which have been using ambassadors for some time now, several multinational firms are also experimenting with this concept in India.
Google India Pvt. Ltd’s ambassador programme was an outcome of its campus engagement programme that helps recruit from business schools. The first batch in 2007 had 40 ambassadors from the second and third year of undergraduate colleges. Then, 20 second-year students applied for an internship, of whom seven joined Google’s Hyderabad centre and four joined in Gurgaon. They stand a good chance of landing a job, provided they clear the rigorous selection procedure.
“For us, branding is incidental. Our focus is on recognizing enthusiastic and motivated individuals who can represent us, even without technically being a part of Google,” says a Google spokesperson, who declined to be named.
This logic is why some companies do not pay a stipend. Google flies the ambassadors to Hyderabad for two days where they are trained on leadership and project management skills.
KSHITIJ MINGLANI: Age: 20; College: DAV College, Chandigarh; Goal: Work for a few years in business development, marketing and strategic planning before going in for a master’s. Photograph: Gireesh G. V. / Mint
The ambassadors go back to college and become the “voice, eyes and ears of Google” as they organize events, assist in recruitment drives and provide feedback.
IT firm Sun Microsystems Inc. has had a global ambassador programme since 2004, but launched its India initiative only last year. Principals, deans and heads of departments at the Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes of Technology and autonomous or deemed universities shortlist three or four resumes, which are then screened by Sun’s engineers for participation.
“Twenty-five campus ambassadors were selected in 2007 and we hope to have 100 in 2008,” says Ganesh Hiregoudar, programme manager for India and Asia Pacific, Sun Microsystems. “We look at strong technical, leadership and coordination skills from third year B. Tech students. The mandate for them is to develop a vibrant Open Source student club that can create excitement and connection with Sun’s open technologies, platforms and developer tools.”
Students learn about the latest technologies from Sun and prepare for a career in IT. They also get certified as Sun programmers or administrators and are paid a stipend. While some have joined the company as interns, placement depends on vacancy.
GAURAV AJMERA: Age: 20 years; College: H.R. College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai; Goal: Run a successful entrepreneurial venture in the field of finance
Infosys BPO has also been tweaking its programme based on ambassador feedback. The 2007-08 CAP has been restructured as a “Young Business Leader” programme with a more stringent training schedule. The focus will be on helping campus ambassadors to excel in the IT-ITES space.
“Smart Talk—an online enhancement tool answering queries of BPO aspirants will be launched this year and is a direct outcome of ambassador feedback,” says Infosys BPO’s Raghavendra.
For the campus ambassadors, the stipend is not so important. It is the experience and value on their resume that is a big plus, since most want to work a few years before doing their master’s or MBA.
For Gaurav Ajmera, representing a reputed company such as Infosys BPO, motivated him to hone his presentation skills. He carries this “extra” skill with him as he heads for a master’s in finance, from the University of Manchester in the UK.
Says Bangalore’s Prapti Doshi: “Working through the night on projects and assignments during the week-long training programme prepared me for a work culture where deadline management and working in teams is critical for success.” She says it gave her an insight into the corporate world, which she later joined
And in many ways, that’s exactly the point of Infosys’ programme.