Thursday, December 11, 2008

IIT placements slow down

This report was the first indication that it's not 'business as usual' at the IITs. Four days into the placement season Economic Times noted:

The number of IITians recruited this year has been 60% lower than 2007, when there was a huge response during the first few days. Many companies like Shell, RIL, Credit Suisse, HUL, Transocean, Dell and NetApp had initially said they would be coming to the campuses, but later backed out...

So far, IIT Bombay has had the best opening placements this year, with 32 students being offered jobs on the first day and around 28 on Day 2... IIT Kanpur saw around 55 students being placed on both days, compared to 90 last year...The IITs in Chennai, Delhi and Kharagpur saw only around 30-35 of their students being hired on both Day 1 and Day 2, while in 2007 the recruitments were as high as 90 on both days.

Well, while all the attention so far has been focussed on MBA placements, the Wall Street meltdown was bound to affect IITs as well. Leading investment banks had been hiring students for analyst positions from IITs over the last few years. The numbers they recruited were rising every year - these were the *dream jobs* which put IITians in a different league.

As an analyst at Lehman Bros Mumbai office puts it: "12-15 students from EACH IIT joined this year as analysts and several such companies used to visit the various IITs." Lehman (now known as Nomura) is not visiting any campus this year and neither are the likes of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Names like Lime Group, Mercer Oliver Wyman and Pimco (which offered a $100,000 packaage last year) are now history. There are a few naam ke vaaste recruitments from HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and (surprise!) Citigroup.

The other prestigious recruiters at the IITswere consulting companies like McKinsey, BCG and Tower research. They have reduced number of offers. Same with the likes of HUL and ITC. Yahoo, amazon, google, Microsoft, Oracle - still hiring. But it's not clear if the numbers are equal to last year.

So where are students going? "Core" companies or tech as they call it on campus. This morning ET reported: While IIT-Kharagpur saw 140 'core companies' visiting the campus this year — up from 120 last year — at IIT-Delhi, out of 150 companies, 100 were from the core sector.

Companies like NTPC are more than pleased.

“Till now, we have been getting low-ranking students, but this year was different, with better slots and better students,” says NTPC director (HR) SK Srivastava. The PSU plans to hire around 1,000 students this year from IITs and NITs (National Institute of Technology). While the number of students hired from IITs were around 100 last year, it is expected to jump more than 100% this year. NTPC has already sent 400 letters of intent (LoI) to freshers.

However even on the core job front one of the traditional favourites - Schlumberger - has cut back hiring drastically. Last year this company had picked up 35 + students from IIT KGP and IIT Roorkee alone - now it is down to 2-3!

The newer IITs like Roorkee seem to be the worst hit. Prestigious recruiters would rather show up and make a couple of goodwill hires at the likes of IIT B and D.

Anyhow - those are the facts of the matter. Here is what I think of the entire scenario.

* It's all about expectations: Strangely enough IITs are more affected than say, the NITs, VJTIs or DCEs of the world. That's because they had placed a lot of their eggs in the finance basket. These jobs offered glamour and high pay packages - which other companies coming in their place now cannot match. So even though I am sure all students will get placed, there will be a feeling of *poor me*.

Bhai 'ordinary job' lene ke liye thodi itne saal bheja fry kiya tha.
Not all IITians got those glam offers but at least *some* did. And that was a huge boost for 'brand IIT'.

The lesson for IIT aspirants: Instant 'success' in terms of an out-of-this-world job at age 22 may or may not come to you. It depends on factors that have nothing to do with you. So think carefully about what you really want to do in life!

* The dice is dicey: Even within core companies, some industries are affected. Semiconductors, for example. Texas Instruments and Analog Devices are offering far fewer jobs and this impacts Electronics & Electrical Engineering grads.

Civil and Mechanical are in demand due to the infrastructure boom. L & T is now a cool company!

The lesson for those trying to choose a 'hot branch': You can never know! The best strategy is to try and embrace whatever branch you choose, or happen to get. Immerse yourself in it, learn to 'enjoy' it. Because you may need to or want to make a career out of it. Don't sleepwalk through your course and close that door.

* Choosing the lesser of two evils: I felt the NTPC guy was a bit bombastic. But speaking to a couple of NIT students I learnt this interesting fact: Asked to choose between joining an Indian software company and a PSU, junta prefers the PSU. Why?

"Because they pay more (avg CTC of Rs 4-5.5 lakhs) and offer job security."

But the students hasten to add,"If you join an Infy or Wipro you will spend at least 6-8 months on the bench doing nothing... At the PSU the work culture may not be too exciting but at least you get some experience which will count when the time comes to switch jobs."

And that time will surely come - say two years from now. Yes, sadly for NTPC. It can recruit all it wants but it will never be able to retain these 'better students'. They will jump ship at the first available opportunity!

The lesson for those who think they got a raw deal today: Things can only get better. So take a long term view of your career. Wherever you work, make sure you learn, grow and shoulder significant responsibility.

And never mind what the doomsday pundits say. One enterprising BTech who was with Lehman quit and joined an Indian finance company some months ago. They pay less but give him far more exposure. And he is sure his gamble will pay off when markets bounce back, as they are bound to. In due time.

In the meantime, remind yourself,"Life is not a Formula 1 race". Even in the best of times, don't push your career di gaddi too fast or to the limit. Or everyone and everything else around you will be nothing but a giant blur.

Sometimes Destiny applies the brakes but at other times you have to!

Tomorrow: The impact on other engineering colleges. I've been hearing some sad stuff from here as well. To share news and views from your campus drop a line to rashmi_b at


  1. PSU-ite here..
    Actually..didn't expect such an article from you. Like one of those ET articles about placements. Talks about 5%.

  2. I am a guy from the 'other colleges' All I can say is I am not in touch with the news nowadays but I know this much...things are getting worse for all those who are not a part of brand IIT. I dont know about the scenario out there but I felt the anxiety and tension around me when I was asked by about a dozen guys the very same question-What do you plan to do after BE.

  3. Lime group is now part of Tower research

  4. Well, the situation isn't that bad. People are still getting placed in the best of companies. And Citigroup is not a naam-ke-vaaste placement. They took a student @ 80000£ last year from my UGrad university (Which is not an IIT) ^_^ Even Shell, etc visited, recruited and didn't back out.

    "Instant 'success' in terms of an out-of-this-world job at age 22 may or may not come to you." -- couldn't agree more.

  5. Let me be the first to say - PSUs will be a good career option for next 5 years[gasp!! did I say that?]

    Acceptable pay, job security, awesome benefits & if you are in a powerful position you also get to decide & impact lives of others for the better. What else do you want??

  6. k..........psu's may sound lucrative at dis moment.....but ask ne good engineering grad and dey vl point u out dat still dey are in 2nd or 3rd strata (if not last) on wish un wants his/her caste to decide ven he/she is going to b promoted

  7. I agree that IITs have probably lost most owing to the financial depression, but I disagree on the main reason for it. I believe that this owes much to the delayed placement schedule of IITs (starting in December as against July/August for other colleges). Because the financial meltdown didn't reach panic mode until October, the placement seasons of other colleges remained largely unaffected. Although we are hearing about some companies backing out of job offers made to students in those colleges, they are usually fewer, and more important low-key as compared to the news grabbing placement woes of IITs.

    PS: I have written about the background of the delayed placement schedule in one of my blog posts.

  8. Funny thing...

    sometime back there were figures about attrition rate in the best companies to work in India, i think in outlook (i might be wrong here). NTPC at no.6 best company to work in, had an attrition rate of 0.19%. Though i understand you speak of PSU in general. But still, I feel all said done, people tend not to leave PSU's as many might be led to think. They after all offer strong (not flashy) pay packets, and have a host of amenities and perks like housing etc to offer. and well the growth might not be exponential, its steady and chances of being on the street due to come jackass playing with the stock markets are almost zilch.

    we need to potray PSU's better, imagewise.

  9. Hey Rashmi,

    well yes the placements have been affected, but i wanna put some points into light:-

    1. Schlumby never recruit this high, only prevs to prevs year (a correction here to your data) they recruit that much from Kgp and Roorkee. And after such a recruitment spree, their placement intake is bound to be affected which materialized this year

    2. HUL extended most of their offers in terms of PPOs so job offers are still there in IITs, though they have reduced by around 25%

    3. The financial/IT jobs started pouring down our campuses ( i mean IIT campuses) once the markets were high. It was bound to be affected as soon as markets plunged.

    and yeah to PSU prospect... well a big yes in terms of Job security... i dont see any other reason ... but job security.... definitely yes

  10. just on the Long term warren buffet stuff - IMHO, in the coming years "value inv" or long term inv theme wont work.
    the only thing sure long term is...we all will be dead!
    Life is full of cycles so is business etc.. just cant keep looking at the future 10 yrs frm now and forget tht we r living in the present.

  11. Nice post.

    The US regulator allowed the US banks to get carried away and make all kinds of crazy loans, whereas the Indian regulator was much more watchful. Similarly, are there schools (Engineering or MBA) that had a good regulator (placement chairman) who did not get carried away by the lucrative finance jobs and maintained a well balanced recruiting strategy through the boom period? I guess these institutes will be better placed for the next 2-3 years.

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