Graduating to unemployment

Graduating to unemployment

Fresh graduates bear the brunt of the slowdown as Indian firms apply the brakes on hiring.

Fresh graduates bear the brunt of the slowdown as Indian firms apply the brakes on hiring.

They are bright young men and women who gave college their best shot and were eager to start work. As they entered the final year of their courses in the summer of 2011,the Indian economy was among the few in the world that still had a growth rate worth talking about and there was hope on the horizon.

Season of layoffs

A year on,that hope has turned into despair.

The graduates of 2012,from across disciplines and cities,are instead facing conservative and uncertain hiring plans,fewer job offers per company,a dip in average salaries and even a postponement of their date of joining.

While the exact number of the fresh graduates waiting for employment is hard to come by in the absence of a central agency to track such trends,a common line of disappointment runs through Lucknow to Pune,and through Chandigarh to Bhubaneswar.


Mayank Raj,who completed his MBA in finance from Lucknow University this year,was interested in a career in banking. But the 24-year-old is now struggling to find any job in the finance sector. Desperate to be employed before his father retires next year,Mayank says he has now begun to apply for research and analysis jobs in security firms.

“Until last year,we had a number of banks and finance companies coming in for placements. But this year,the openings are fewer in number. Those offering jobs do not offer good packages,” said Mayank,who is still hopeful of shifting to mainstream banking “next year once the market looks up”.

No vacancy

* Lalit Pradhan’s family thought he would land a job in a top IT company such as Infosys after his B Tech from a Bhubaneswar college. His father had sold a piece of land to fund his studies. Desperate not to remain unemployed for too long,Pradhan has switched his career options and joined a banking coaching class.

“Everyday,I hear my parents talking about how they dreamed of an engineering career for me,not that of a bank clerk. They ask me if they spent all that money for such a lowly job,” said Pradhan. “I feel frustrated and look for an opportunity to slink out of home. It is depressing.”

The bad news is not restricted to the disciplines in demand such as engineering and finance; graduates in these fields from elite institutions such as the IITs and IIMs have in fact largely remained immune to the slowdown. Even areas such as healthcare and law are cautious about hiring,while sectors such as telecom and aviation have been caught in the gloom for a while now.

* Shivani Sinha,23,has packed her bags and is ready to move to Delhi in search of a job. A law graduate from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Law University,Lucknow,Shivani has been trying for two months for work in the corporate sector. “I have applied to all the major corporate houses but the reply I get from most is that they are shedding employees rather than recruiting new ones,” she said. “I am planning to give myself another two months. Else,I will take up a job in litigation with any of the law firms in Delhi.” She added she is willing to settle for a salary lower than she had initially hoped for if a corporate house has a vacancy.

* Rohit Tiwari returned to Ahmedabad in January after studying abroad for eight years. After getting a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from Roehampton University in the UK,he did an MBA in healthcare at Marywood University in the US. Six months on,he is still looking for a job that will pay him a salary in line with his education.

“One of the top hospitals in Ahmedabad offered a pay of Rs 15,000 as an assistant manager where I would have to manage the administration of nine floors. I realise that there is a big gap between what I am offered and what I am capable of doing,” he said. “The US is still in recession but if I don’t find anything here in another two months,I will head back.”

Fewer placements

Teachers and placement officers plead helplessness. Private colleges and universities are particularly perturbed as they woo students promising them good placements.

“Jobs are just not available in so many sectors,with engineering being the worst hit,” said a professor in the placement cell of a popular private university in Greater Noida. “Our placement numbers fell for the first time last year. While 100 students got placed at top companies last year,only 76 got through this year,” he said.

Only one of the 27 students in the Master of Business Management (Agriculture) course at the College of Agriculture in Pune has got a job. Says one of the other 26,Deepak Dongare: “The rest of us are desperately trying.”

Prof J K Sharma,head of the department of business administration,Lucknow University,said 2012 has been the slowest of the past three years for placements. “Although the market is not as bad as it was during 2006-07 and 2007-08,it definitely is slow this year. The telecom sector is saturated and the retail sector is quite dull,” he said. “Last year,we had up to 70 per cent placements,this year the figure is hovering near 50 per cent.”

At Lucknow’s Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Law University,placements are as low as 40 per cent compared to almost 100 per cent last year,even when the number of graduates fell to less than half. “Even companies like ICICI Lombard and HDFC that recruited from us last year did not turn up this year,” said Dr K A Pandey,in charge of the placement cell at RMLLU.

Some institutions that managed to secure good placements at the beginning of the year have employers now telling their graduates to delay their joining citing the “current global market situation and global slowdown”. Sandeep Meshram,who is in charge of placements at the College of Engineering,Pune,said that although the college had managed to place all its students,many companies had begun deferring the joining dates.

“Companies that have deferred their joining dates include core companies and a few navaratna oil companies. Some of them have deferred the joining till November this year to January next year. These students were recruited in August-September 2011. If the companies further defer the joining date,it is apparent that these students will start looking for a job elsewhere,” said Meshram.

Although Meshram says he has seen worse in his 15 years in the job,the current crisis can deteriorate if more big names join the trend of delaying joining dates and if this also hurts placements in 2013.

And the indications are not too positive,with several companies that were previously eager to recruit on campus in June and July for 2013 having now postponed such plans,Meshram added.

Until it happens…

As graduates look for ways to remain gainfully occupied,some are learning new skills to help find temporary alternative careers,but a more popular choice apparently is to continue studying and gain a higher qualification.

Awadhesh Kumar,a resident of Ambedkarnagar who completed his B Tech in computer science from the Institute of Engineering and Technology,Lucknow,is set to move to Nagpur and pursue an M Tech as he failed to get a job this year.

Manoranjan Mahalik,the youngest son of his parents,did not anticipate the job scene in IT would be so bad. “We have been hearing about IT becoming less rosy for the past few years. But what I have experienced is shocking,” said the B Tech from Bhubaneswar. After graduating in August 2011,Mahalik had landed a job in a nondescript company in Kolkata,but quit the job a month later as the “prospects were hardly promising”.

Apart from his hunt for a job,Manoranjan is also worried about his father,a heart patient. “I can’t think of spending any more money on learning new IT skills at the moment as the money needs to be spent on my father’s treatment. I would rather do an M Tech and bide my time until the recession ends,” he said.

A study by Manjit Singh,secretary of the Punjab Aided Technical Institutions Association,found that although mechanical engineering was the first choice of a large number of students seeking admission to engineering colleges in the region in recent years,many of them were switching to IT or consultancies as there were no jobs in the core sector.

Teachers in Punjab talked about a jump in the number of students applying for master’s degrees,especially in M Tech and MCA,calling it a key indicator of the lack of jobs in the sector. At Punjab Engineering College and Punjab Technical University,the number of applications for the M Tech course jumped by 2,000 this year compared to last year,while at Panjab University more than 2,500 students applied for its 175 MCA seats.

Abhishek Singh’s decision to study engineering after training to become a pilot indicates just how random and desperate graduates can get during a slowdown. “I trained as a pilot at the flying school in Rae Bareli,but no airline was hiring. I couldn’t afford to go abroad so I decided not to waste time waiting for something to happen and took up this course,” said Singh. “Despite the fact that even the market for engineering students is bad currently,two degrees give me an added chance that something will work out in the future. That’s what I’m hoping for.”


Reporting by Surbhi Khyati in Lucknow; Debabrata Mohanty in Bhubaneswar; Lakshmi Ajay in Ahmedabad; Dipankar Ghose in Delhi; Ritika Jha in Chandigarh; Atikh Rashid in Pune; Mihika Basu in Mumbai