Bangalore/New Delhi: India’s premier business schools (B-schools) expect their students to get a wider choice of jobs in the on-campus placements season starting this month, as a turnaround in the economy encourages global banks such as Goldman Sachs to hire in greater numbers.

B-schools cozied up to small- and mid-sized companies—many of them first-time recruiters—and public sector units in a desperate attempt to get their students jobs last year as the world battled to douse a financial firestorm that began on Wall Street.

Fewer companies courted potential recruits, salary offers dipped and the placements season dragged on longer than usual. That has changed as economic growth accelerates after dipping to 6.7% in fiscal 2009, the slowest in six years.

“First-time recruiters, public sector units and companies with lower stature may not find students this year," said P.D. Jose, associate professor and head of career development services at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B). “Students’ choices will be determined by market conditions."

Many Wall Street firms, reeling after the mid-September 2008 collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., skipped the placements season in 2009. Students of IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A), India’s most prestigious B-school, received an average salary offer for domestic jobs that was 32% lower than what they got the previous year. “Last year everyone was tense... Now there is a general sense of well-being," said Jose, who plans to close the placements in seven days against 10 taken in 2009.

At IIM-B, Day Zero, the first two days of placements when slots are allotted to the most preferred recruiters, will be launched on 4 March.

“Things are looking good," said Raunaq Saran, 24, an engineer in the Class of 2010 at the flagship postgraduate programme at IIM-B, who will be a candidate in on-campus hiring in March and hopes to get an offer from consultancies McKinsey and Co. or Boston Consulting Group. “Bigger companies are looking to take higher numbers."

At Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Rahul Sachdev, a student who will manage placements when they open this month for his peers, says things are set to change from 2009.

Consumer product makers are hiring, “pre-placement offers are higher, I-banks and consultancies are recruiting and in good numbers", said Sachdev, who will not participate in the placements because he has accepted a pre-placement job offer, after a successful summer internship, from Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

One of the most favoured recruiters at campuses, not just in India, but also the world over, investment bank Goldman Sachs said its hiring for full-time jobs is based on performance of summer interns, and is up compared with 2009.

“We took on 21 IIM students in November last year to start our 2010 summer programme, which commences in April. Last year’s class was 12, six of which have been offered full- time positions at Goldman Sachs. I don’t have the complete data from the previous year, but it was considerably lower," said Edward Naylor, the bank’s spokesman in Asia, by email.

A more crowded hiring season means more competition between schools, between students and, often, between recruiters as well. FMS said it is not making public the dates when recruiters will come to campus to interview and test students.

In a break from the past and to reduce stress on students, IIM-A is set to launch a spread-out placement season. Recruiters offering similar job profiles will be invited in groups on weekends to the school, a departure from the earlier system in which the school wrapped up its placement within days.

Recruiters that Mint interviewed since the school announced its new hiring method in December have been enthusiastic, though they say it is yet to be tried.

“Any process that gives the company and the candidate more time with each other is something we would absolutely welcome," said Vinod Nair, managing partner of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants in India, who will seek candidates from IIM-B and IIM Calcutta in the first week of March.

First-time recruiter and brokerage firm Jaypee Capital Services Ltd was the largest recruiter across IIMs in 2009, hiring 53 graduates from those schools in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Lucknow, along with nine from FMS. Public sector bank, Union Bank of India (UBI), absorbed 41 students.

These recruiters will be back on campuses this year, hoping that job security rather than the size of the pay cheque will influence student choices.

“Students want security... Money is not the only consideration," said U.B. Rairikar, general manager, personnel department at UBI, which he said had managed to retain 99% of students recruited in 2009.

Aveek Datta from Kolkata contributed to this story.