Sunday, March 08, 2009

Make your own road

What goes up, must come down. But just how much - we finally have some idea!

Placement statistics from IIMA confirm the worst fears of the graduating MBA class. The average domestic salary is down 32%. Foreign offers have dried up. Big recruiters are missing or making just a token offer or two.

The placement process was officially closed after 8 days but rumour has it a few students are still looking for jobs. Or maybe they have jobs, but are still looking for something 'better'.

The same stories are coming in everywhere. Top bschools like XLRI, MDI and IIFT are reporting 70-90% of the batch has secured placement. The rest I am sure will eventually find jobs, although at salaries much lower than expected.

Naturally junta is not in the best of spirits. But you know something - I think good will eventually come out of all this.

For some years now the MBA had become not a stepping stone into a corporate career but a kind of express elevator.

Now it's back to basics. Start modestly, learn the business, figure out what really works outside of textbooks. It may not be out of choice but more MBAs are moving out of their comfort zone into new and uncharted sectors.

Stories like this one are especially heartening. The Economic Times reports:

Manishbhai Patel went shopping, and came back with an IIM graduate. Patel, who runs the Rs 3-crore Varun Radiators in Kalol, Gujarat, had been scouting for a chief executive to spearhead his ambitious expansion plans...

He made his pitch, convinced the 26-year-old IIM student of all the possibilities that a growth-hungry company had on offer, and bagged his new CEO for Rs 6 lakh per annum. “It’s a breakthrough. He will add value to our company, and we want to touch Rs 15 crore within a year,” says Patel, elated at his prize catch.

It's not going to be easy for the CEO. Or for Mr Patel. But if this 26 year old can adjust his attitude and apply his aptitude, he can work wonders. I say this with confidence because I've heard stories like this from a previous generation of MBAs. Among them, super successful people I interviewed for 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish'.

In the 70s and 80s, many IIM grads joined organisations such as FAIR - Foundation to Aid Industrial Recovery. The concept of FAIR was to take a sick industrial unit from a bank, put a young MBA in charge as the chief executive and turn around the company in two years. Retaining all the existing employees.

Sunil Handa, who later set up Core Healthcare and Eklavya school (but is of course best known and loved as the professor who's inspired so many towards entrepreneurship) said of his stint at FAIR:

"To take a 23 year old fresher from IIM-A and throw him into Bhavnagar to revive a sick unit, required a lot of guts and the density of learning was very high. If I had spent 19 months in Hindustan Lever as a management trainee, I would not have learnt even one per cent of what I learnt in 19 months as a chief executive of a sick unit".

Others like Vinayak Chatterjee (founder of Feedback Ventures) worked as executive assistant to Raunaq Singh and became part of the team which turned around Apollo Tyres.

So to the graduating class of 2009 I have one simple advice. Wherever you work, whatever you do, and no matter how lousy your take home...

Treat the next 2 years as if enrolled for another degree. Awarded by the University of Life.

Strive to learn, to grow, to polish the rough edges. Make friends with the salesman, the doorman and the chairman. Good relationships can take you a long long way.

Be humble yet do not be subservient. Understand the ground reality, gain trust and you will definitely get a chance to challenge the status quo.

You, the graduating class of 2009, are brand ambassadors for the animal known as the 'MBA'. Prove the critics wrong. Show them that the education you receieved was more than a ticket to a fancy paycheque.

What goes down, must go up. When the economy recovers - as it definitely will - you will be a valuable and wise asset for any company. Until then, enjoy each day. Struggle is the sweetness we stir into our souls as we brew our own special brand of success.

A brand bigger than the bschool you graduate from. Or the very label 'MBA'.


  1. I think this time it will be different.In the yester years ppl took to low-key jobs/challenging jobs going outside of their comfort zones as they really wanted to do something different and believed in it.
    Now, everyone is being FORCED into something thy rather not get into,if thy had the choice...
    this will be interesting....

  2. Hi Rashmi,

    Great sentiments. Takes me back to the time the last financial slump made me look at a job in collections, in an MNC, and that too in East India. 10 years on, I really belioeve I learnt the most on that job, simply because I made the effort to get out of the office, meet the so called 'distressed' clients, and understand their issues. As it turned out, less than 25% had a problem of lack of money. Add to that the opportunity to travel and understand how various businesses got into a mess, it was a super education. Of course, after all that, it wasn't so difficult to be rated outstanding after all, and unfortuntely, escape the thrills of handling collections.

  3. Excellent article. Earlier HLL had an internship program of one year on the streets selling soaps etc. for the IIM graduates that they hired. Neither was the salary attractive and nor was the experience. But for a couple of people who took it (whom I knew), both are enterpruners today after a long stint in HLL. You learn your basics on the field, on the streets. That's why I chose sales as a career right after my engineering. The exposure in this field is tremendous. But my starting salary was just 4000 rupees before six years when the then recession was at its peak! But recession was an oppurtunity for me to justify the salary and get some great experience!! I wish I had done a MBA but it is not too late I guess :-) Maybe this recession becones another oppurtunity!

    Destination Infinity

  4. excellent article... gives me hope that d situation will be better in d future than what it is now...

  5. Echo's my sentiments exactly...I hope that my MT salesstint right now with ITC now will be worth its 'real value' once normalcy returns!

    PS: u dont want wordpress users to comment?

  6. Excellent Post!

    I’ve never been to a B-SchooI as yet, but I can vouch that your post reflects my current mood and actions at work.

    Taking it one day at a time and fully aware that the present efforts will pay off bigger than the paycheques!

    - The HR Store

  7. Hey,
    Good to see your post after a long time!
    Seems you are quite busy. Still travelling?
    Anyways, keep in touch.

  8. @Destination Infinity
    HLL(now HUL) still has a one year training program for all its recruits(IIM or other b-schools).One still needs to sell soaps on the street but the package is now revised.

  9. Rashmi, great thought... was in IIM-B for recruitment a few weeks ago... the situation was really bad! but, am sure some good will come out of the recession... and the mind-set of parents and Indian society will hopefully change

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  11. Article is in line with what you spoke during your visit to Nashik recently...
    Good insight into the ground reality! Even IIM-B took 11 days this time instead of usual 3-4 days to place all its students (URL: ). For quite sometime now, B-Schools have been perceived as job-factories instead of being considered as education houses by the aspirants as well as students... I hope this downturn will help everyone understand the ground reality brought out well in this article...

  12. a real inspirational post

  13. Rashmi you again hit the bulls eye, you have a knack of mirroring the junta's feelings.

    i think this is a much needed lesson for the MBA hype in India.

    i always felt dissatisfied in my mba - all my 650 batchmates were there to get a shortcut to good jobs !

    Education is to Educate - jobs and money follows ur skillsets.

    sweat it out, make your own road, the shortcut that you thought existed doesnt exist !

    IBS Gurgaon 2008 batch

  14. Entrepreneurship is the way to go.. Students should try and experiment while in B-School. If it clicks they culd continue working on that. But unfortunately entrepreneur culture is not supported in India

  15. Hi Rashmi,

    If I would have got such a pen power & ability to summarise whats going around like you, I would have posted blog everyday. Plz dont give 2 post in one month. At least 30 are expected from you :P

    Keep it up.

    You die hard fan

  16. yeah..and if we are all set to reclaim our lives back again..this time..why not start sustainably..Atleast we can add few more years to live as we resurrect our lives back to normal..
    Let not then.. be shaken when hit by an ecological crisis

  17. gr8 thoughts....inspirational...

    Now show begins for the 08-10 batch of MBA..!!

    -ashish trivedi
    SDM IMD,mysore

  18. Entrepreneurship is the way to go.. Students should try and experiment while in B-School. If it clicks they culd continue working on that. Lifestyle on the Net Lifestyle on the Net

  19. hi
    i am an mba student from bimm(balaji institute of modern management).i have heard a lot about fair that it helps sick industries to recover.can anyone pls tell me the procedure how to apply for an internship for any project in fair.


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