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New Delhi: It’s not business as usual for India’s B-schools this year and most expect the financial crisis and the economic slowdown to result in a fall in the number of companies participating in their placement season—the annual ritual where recruiters visit campuses and hire graduating students for huge sums of money.

No choice: A file photo of students at MDI, Gurgaon. MDI has made it binding for students who have pre-placement offers to take them. Ramesh Pathania / Mint

“Go all out" is how Aditya Kashyap, a 2009-batch student of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), sums up the strategy his school is following this year.

Kashyap’s school is not the only one going all out to attract recruiters. Other B-schools, facing one of the toughest on-campus recruitment seasons in a decade, also say they are doing everything possible to make sure that their students find jobs.

Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai and Management Development Institute, or MDI, in Gurgaon, near Delhi, have made it binding for those students who have pre-placement offers, or PPOs, to take them. In past years, such students were allowed to appear for interviews during placement season in search of so-called “dream jobs".

IIM-B has asked students to be prepared to travel to meet recruiters instead of waiting on campus. That’s because, in these days of cost-cutting, recruiters might be reluctant to travel. But no recruiter has so far taken up the offer to interview students off-campus.

Until last year, student placement committees on most B-school campuses, which are elected by a student vote, politely rejected companies.

Now, they are not above making cold calls to recruiters.

“It is about getting as many companies (as possible) on campus," said Sourav Mukherji, the professor in charge of placements at IIM-B who chaired heady placement seasons in the past two years when salary offers touched as much as Rs1 crore a year. “Even if they pick one student, we are asking them to come."

Conservative hiring

Recruiters said most companies—from those in the financial services business to those selling consumer goods—will hire in smaller numbers this year as they struggle with the global economic slowdown.

“Financial services sector (will be) recruiting less but companies from other sectors, whether consulting, whether FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), will also be conservative or cautious in terms of recruiting numbers," said Vinod Nair, managing partner of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants’ India practice, who visits the top IIMs and Indian School of Business, or ISB, Hyderabad to recruit students (Diamond is among the consultants used by HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint).

The tough times are giving rise to new measures.

At the Narsee Monjee institute in Mumbai, a student task force has asked all students to participate in a voluntary exercise that includes naming the salary they think they are worth.

“If you are not creme de la creme of the batch, you need to apply to companies sensibly," said Deepti Pillai, who heads the student council at Narsee Monjee.

Pillai said the task force is encouraging students to opt for a job profile of their choice—sales, marketing, finance—and not worry about salary packages.

“Focus has shifted from package and sector to profile," she said.

MDI and Narsee Monjee have also made it clear to students that any PPO has to be accepted.

“Yes, PPOs are binding," said Subir Verma, faculty member in charge of placements at MDI.

Day zero

“We are inviting many first time recruiters to consider the high quality of the talent pool at IIM Ahmedabad and we have seen a positive response so far," said Mihir Lal, member of the student placement committee at IIM Ahmedabad, in reply to an email questionnaire.

Lal said his school is trying to move away from the perception that its placements are all about international investment banks and consulting firms. He said it is too early to predict how Day Zero will pan out.

IIM-B’s Kashyap said the sectors that hold promise this year include health care, insurance, telecommunications, media and hospitality, apart from consumer products.

This is the first in a series. Next: Students graduating from Indian B-schools are facing more competition from Indian students in foreign B-schools who are eyeing jobs back home as the US and Europe battle a recession.

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