After all the hype about placements and salaries, here's an interesting story. About a guy who's walked away from it all to pursue his own dream.
22 year old Abhishek Thakore, a second year student from IIM Bangalore could very well have joined any company of his choice. With an enviable 3.5 CGPA (placing him in the top 20 of the batch) and a summer job with Deutsche Bank in Singapore, Abhishek appeared all set to become the quintessential yuppie managing risk funds.
But Abhishek has taken the radical decision of dropping out of placement. The risk he's managing is a million times more. It involves laying the most difficult bet of all - on himself.
Taking the Big Leap
"On the one side was the corporate world filled with certainty of a job, a steady income and great prospects of growth," says Abhishek. "On the other, was complete uncertainty". However, over the four months that he spent on an exchange programme in Germany, he got time to take a retrospective look at his life.
With people like Deepak Chopra and Anthony Robbins being his inspiration, he consolidated his dreams and decided to take the leap - which he says was the closest he's ever come to bungee jumping. "I realised that the first person I need to sell the idea is myself. Once that would happen everything else would fall in place, I was sure."
So what exactly is Abhishek's 'Big idea'? His dream is to set up a company that imparts "life skills training" to students. "The mission of my life is to help people discover their true dreams and equip them to achieve them," he says. "We are going to be a human technology distribution company."
The first tentative step in this direction is a series of camps for school and college students branded "Ways of Winners" which will cover everything from effective studies to negotiating with parents.
In the March 21 issue of Businessworld magazine I'd done a small feature on Abhishek titled "Giving placements a miss". (registration required to access)
The Big Idea
"We are here to offer what traditional schooling misses out on."
The contention is simple: As students, we all mug up facts, figures and dates. But knowing where in India railway coaches are manufactured is of absolutely no use to you once regurgitated in the exam. The challenges young people face on a day to day basis - from handling relationships, to managing time and earning pocket money - are what 'Thakore Learning Centre' will be addressing.
Personally, I think there is definitely a need for this kind of a program. Parents are often wrapped up in their own problems, teachers generally unapproachable. Underneath their gung-ho exterior, a lot of young people are terribly anxious and insecure. And carrying these insecurities into your adult life is a sure shot recipe for personal and professional mediocrity.
Dreaming a little dream
MBAs turning entrepreneurs is not exactly a new story. But here again there are those driven by conventional opportunities - IT, consulting, CAT coaching classes. Quitting a secure job to start a business is always dicey - but success or failure is mainly dependent on the soundness of your execution. A market per se exists.
The likes of Abhishek howeever, are driven by impossible sounding dreams. The dreamers believe they can create a market. That they have something unique to offer to the world. Something the world needs - but doesn't yet know.
12 years ago I too had a similar, impossible sounding dream - to start a youth magazine. And I too opted out of placement to pursue it.
The logic was simple: once you step on the corporate treadmill, it's hard to get off. So I joined a large media company - an out-of-placement job at a really miserable salary. But, I knew it wasn't my ultimate destination. Just a pit stop where I could learn the ropes of the business.
Yet, a certain sense of complacency began to set in. One fine day realisation dawned - I had to 'just do it'. The magazine had already been published in my head and yet, unless I took the leap into the unknown - it would never see the light of day.
Thus was 'JAM' born into the world - kicking and screaming. Almost ten years to the day I made the decision, I can only say that today, it would have been that much tougher.
A menu of your choice
When I graduated - in 1993 - the jobs on offer were nowhere near the kind offered today.There were no foreign postings or dollar salaries. Average rupee salaries were also far more modest.
Now, the goodies on the placement table are far, far more tempting. It's like walking away from a lavish 5 star buffet - because you'd rather have simple food in your own kitchen.
Like most 5 star buffets, the so-called 'hot jobs' often turn out to be rather bland. But over a period of time you get addicted to the ambience and your tastebuds adjust to the situation.
Abhishek on the other hand may occasionally tire of 'ghar ka khaana' and wonder whether he made the right choice after all. But that's only human. If the dream is strong and vibrant, the doubts will come and go. But eventually fade away.
Should all MBAs be entrepreneurs? Not for a moment would I suggest that every IIM graduate should follow in Abhishek's footsteps. Or mine.
But I do think we need to devise a more 'thinking' approach towards campus placements. And what it is we really want from our lives.