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In the twentysomething view

It’s slim pickings for young MBA graduates out on the job market

Written by Saritha Rai | Published: April 8, 2013 12:54:38 am

It’s slim pickings for young MBA graduates out on the job market

The riveting drama at leading Indian campuses at this time of the year provides a truthful glimpse into the state of the economy as seen through the eyes of twentysomethings. As many middle- and upper-middle-class college graduates perch at the edge of the country’s job market,the sombre,glum mood portrays a picture more real than cold statistics and the complex economic predictions by government agencies.

One particular act unfolded in March at Bangalore’s leading Christ University,where 620 MBA students are plunked in the middle of campus placements. Christ University is not in the same league as the IIMs,but its MBA programme is increasingly sought after. It is a top-ranked Bangalore institution whose students are smart,articulate and poised. That makes it a must-do amongst top Indian and multinational employers looking to recruit at campuses outside the top engineering and management school ambit.

Yet,this year,by the end of the academic session,only half the students of Christ University,many of them engineers with MBAs (a winning combination by any hiring yardstick) have been placed. Contrast the scenario with last year,when three-quarters of the students had already been placed by this time of the year. Recruiters are coming but their “selects”,the number of graduating students who they make offers to,are lower,said placement coordinator Molly Joseph. Last year,103 companies came to the campus to recruit. This year,there have been 56 companies so far.

On the day France’s second-largest bank,Societe Generale,was on campus,MBA students Pankaj Sharma and David Poly,both 22,and Kavitha B.,24,were on tenterhooks. They had made it through a written test and were awaiting the results of the group discussion round. Between them,the three had already gone through the placement drill at a dozen companies and the anxiety levels were up. “Each time the stress builds up as we think,‘if we don’t clear this one,what if the next company is tougher?’” said Kavitha. The competition is severe but options are fewer,said Poly. He has seen several students sweat through written rounds,gasp for water during interviews and break down after not making it. “People get very depressed,” he said.

The mood is subdued for extraneous reasons as well. For the first time,some MBA students at an IIM failed to get placed this year during the placement season that ended a few weeks ago. Around the same time,engineers who were given campus offer letters by India’s leading IT company,HCL Technologies,went on a protest in New Delhi as the company had given no word on their joining dates even 18 months later.

At Christ University,placement season started in November and the college-dictated salary cut off for companies this year is Rs 3.5 lakh per annum. The first students who got offer letters in hand were euphoric. Cisco generated great excitement on campus for its generous salary offers. But as companies like Bosch,Accenture,TCS and Federal Bank came and departed,the ones who remained are jumpy. Awaiting brands like Hindustan Unilever,Johnson&Johnson and Capgemini,they tweaked resumes and asked for tips. “I’m learning how to handle the pressure,” said David who confessed that he had been selective in attending written tests.

Kavitha is an engineer and she too has been choosy. She will settle only for jobs in her MBA specialisation,human resources. She wants to work only in south India. The work profile and the company brand are more important to her than the compensation package. Her parents want her to get a job where she can balance her personal and professional life. But she and others in her MBA class have student loans to pay. The two-year MBA programme costs Rs 6 lakh in tuition fee alone. She has begun to worry.

Perhaps as a result of the economic slowdown,a few blue chip companies have arrived at Christ University for placements for the very first time. “Companies could be saying,‘let’s go to the smaller schools where we can hire at lesser salaries,get eager employees and deal with less attrition’,” speculated Molly Joseph,the placements coordinator. The students are grateful for this unexpected fallout of the economic deceleration.

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