New Delhi: The tough on-campus hiring season at business schools this year has meant students have to wait for weeks to be placed instead of days— dividing batches that studied and partied together into those with jobs and those still sending out resumes to prospective employers.

Graduating B-school students say this has taught them some valuable lessons—such as the need to stand by friends.

Standing by: Asish Kolvalker (L) and Ruchira Bhargava with batchmates at the Management Development Institute. Students still meeting recruiters say they have got nothing but support from peers with jobs. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint

Das describes Mawandia as “my agony aunt". Mawandia accepts his role with a smile. “You only want to be with your friends," he said on how he felt each day, as batchmates back-slap him, referring to him as the only investment banker on campus.

The 2009 on-campus placements season at business schools was shadowed by slowing economic growth in India and deepening recession in the West. Following the unprecedented turmoil in the global financial industry last year, including the mid-September collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., many overseas banks stayed away or hired fewer numbers.

Average salaries for domestic jobs offered to the graduating batch of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), considered by many to be India’s best B-school, dropped 32% from last year to Rs12.17 lakh a year. The average salary for international jobs at IIM-A dropped 30% to $83,000.

At the Faculty of Management Studies, not the entire class of 2009 has found jobs. While placement committee members denied Mint access to those yet to be placed, Das said the arrival of any recruiter on campus means students with jobs—and freshmen—help prepare those who are sitting for interviews. This includes research into a company’s business interests and sectoral research.

Life as usual?

At another campus, the Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, Mint was able to interview a group of 2009-batch students still looking for jobs.

Student placement co-ordinator Jasmine Kaur Reehal, who has found a job in India’s third largest software exporter, Wipro Ltd, said those not yet placed are trying to live life as usual, playing football in the evening and relaxing with music. “How much can you study?" said Reehal.

“It is a different sort of feeling entirely. We are getting used to it," he said, adding that it was clear from September that the placement process would take at least weeks for completion rather than two-three days as in recent years.

MDI started rolling its placement process in late January to place a batch of 270. The large batch size, unlike a smaller 100 strong batch at Faculty of Management Studies, is also posing a problem in placement, said Subir Verma, faculty member in charge of placements.

Loans to pay back

Unlike the government-subsidized FMS, most students at MDI have to pay back loans taken to finance the Rs6 lakh fees for the two-year programme, lending urgency to their job search. Ruchira Bhargava, a student looking for a job, has an education loan of Rs4 lakh to be paid back in five years from State Bank of India, offered under a scheme with lower interest rates.

The students still meeting recruiters say they have got nothing but support from peers with jobs. “In the two years we spend we gel so much together," said Asish Kolvalker.

Recruiters who are over with their campus visits advise students who have not made the cut to network and stay in touch with interview panels. They also advise them to seek and accept short-term live projects with companies.

“(It’s) not that the student is not competent, (the) panel is looking for different things," said Sachin Agrawal, manager of corporate human resources at the cars-to-financial services group Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, which made 13 offers and got 11 acceptances from the 2009 batch of business graduates.

Mahindra and Mahindra hired graduating students from the Indian Institutes of Management—except IIM Kozhikode—as well as from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai and Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur.

In Delhi, Mahindra tapped FMS, MDI and the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, using a system of pooling resumes from these three schools before shortlisting them.

Agrawal said many students who sat for interviews with his company but did not get selected for jobs are keeping in touch with him. Some have written in asking to be involved in a short-term project. “Most of them are very bright kids," said Agrawal, adding that the company will be “happy to explore-short-term projects for them".

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