Mumbai: It was an uncharacteristically quiet Day Zero at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on Wednesday, with seven companies visiting the B-school to hire the best and brightest from the graduating batch.
Last year, 25 companies visited IIM-A on Day Zero, a term created as demand for graduates from the Indian Institutes of Management peaked, and the schools had to resort to creative mathematics to accommodate in-demand recruiters such as Wall Street investment banks without offending existing recruiters. At most schools, Day Zero can last two days.
Few takers: A file photo of recruiters at the IIM-A campus. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
The number of students hired by the seven companies at IIM-A on Wednesday isn’t known. The school has been even more reticent than it usually is with details of placements. Last year, 65% of the graduating batch at IIM-A was hired on Day Zero by companies such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Morgan Stanley. Vivek Jain, a student at the school who is this year’s placement coordinator, declined comment.
The events at IIM-A mirror those at IIM Calcutta (IIM-C), where the first leg of placements ended on 24 February. Slot Zero ended on 22 February with 200 of the 275-strong graduating batch finding jobs. At New Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), placements have started, but may continue in fits and starts over the next few weeks.
The global financial and economic crisis has taken its toll on placements. Companies across the world, especially those that are in the finance business, are downsizing. And finance companies have traditionally been big recruiters at the IIMs. Last year, for instance, 113 of IIM-A’s graduating batch of 255 took up finance jobs.
This year could see companies in businesses such as manufacturing, technology, software and even state-owned firms being welcomed by the B-schools.
And while students and administrators across India’s top B-schools continue to fret, recruiters are relishing their new-found leverage.
The head of one of the seven companies that were Day Zero recruiters at IIM-A said this year’s placement season would be a good experience for students in the habit of applying blindly for jobs at investment banks and consulting firms.
“It was the quietest Day Zero I have seen in the last five years,” said Suvojoy Sengupta, managing director in India for Booz and Co., an international consulting firm that is hiring for its Indian operations at IIM-A. Sengupta himself is a graduate of the school, widely considered to be India’s best.
Sengupta said six consulting companies and one private equity firm visited the campus on the first day.
“Students won’t get Rs2 crore salaries,” he added. “But its not all gloom and doom. This will act as a lever for students to think through and position themselves better with individual companies”.
Consulting and audit firms were big recruiters at IIM-C too, with at least 10 of them visiting the campus. The students were happy with the offers, although salaries were around 10% lower than last year, said Prafulla Agnihotri, professor and chairman for career development and placements at the school.
L. Arvind Narasimhan, a student at FMS who received a pre-placement offer from Standard Chartered Bank and decided to opt out of final placements, said students needed to lower their expectations.
His batchmate Pranima Das, who has been hired as a derivatives trader by Jaypee Capital Services Ltd, said salaries will likely drop 10-20% across campuses. “The top few companies, which used to drive (the) average up, are not coming down (to recruit),” she added.
Stretching the season
Schools across the country are stretching their placement seasons in an attempt to help all students find jobs. The elite IIMs, reportedly nervous from the slowdown, moved up their final placements from March to February.
Placements at IIM Bangalore begin on Friday.
Some recruiters have said schools will have to wait till the second quarter of 2009 to hear from them.
“Companies as such are shying away (from hiring)”, said Sunil Srivastava, executive director for human resources at Xerox India Ltd, who cancelled plans to hire laterally or students with work experience at the Management Development Institute in Gurgaon and fresh graduates from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai. “Hiring numbers have come down to one-third, or they are not hiring at all.”
Srivastava, who said he got enquiries from IIM-C and IIM Lucknow to know if his company would participate in the placements process, told the schools to wait till the second quarter of 2009 for his company’s hiring to open-up.
The result is already evident in the schools.
Narasimhan and Das said they still had jobless peers, but refused to disclose the number of batchmates who are without jobs. FMS has a small batch size of 100-odd students in its flagship programme.
The situation is likely to be worse in so-called second-tier (or tier-II) schools, those other than the IIMs, the Faculty of Management Studies, XLRI Jamshedpur and a few others.
Tarun Matta, an IIM graduate who runs iimjobs.com, a jobs portal, said in an email that while IIMs would manage to find jobs for all graduates, “fresh graduates from tier-II and tier-III would be the ones that’ll get affected the most”.