The fact that companies are back on campus to gauge talent and size up batch profiles may result in a better job placement season in March

The summer placement process at the Indian Institutes of Management has been making headlines this month. For those who aren't familiar with this hi-profile process, a summer placement is B-school parlance for finding summer-time internships for first year students of the Post-Graduate Programme in Management. Viewed as an indicator by senior students, who await their final year job placement process, a summer placement is also important because many students hope to make the most of it by converting these internships into pre-placement offers.

So how were summer placements this year? Many of the top B-schools completed their summer placement this week, and registered some heartening trends for management aspirants and students. With more students in each class now — increase in intake to meet OBC quota requirements — placement officials and students were anxious. In spite of heartening stories about “green shoots,” students knew that recovering companies were unlikely to invest in interns unless the trends were positively on the rise.

Extra effort

Praveen G. Krishnan, student at IIM-B, says that students tried to “stick to their job.” “We worked hard on resumes, mock interviews and our skills. In addition, the recession taught us that we had to put in that something extra. So people started looking at increasing their co-curriculars or social work quotient,” he says, adding that he hopes these trends will last long after the recession is gone. On their part, institutes invited more companies, and even diversified in terms of profiles sought.

Companies turned up in large numbers and made generous placements offers, both in terms of number of offers as well as stipends, IIM students confirmed. Though the numbers may not match up to the 2007 records, when placements were at their best, the upward trend is being seen as an indicator of better times to come. Significantly, the fact that companies are back on campus to gauge talent and size-up batch profiles, may result in a better job placement season in March, IIM-B officials said.

Last year, top institutes struggled to find jobs for their students and placements extended even beyond 10 days. However, students say that internship offers do not guarantee jobs. Says final year student Neeraj Kuar: “We do see these companies as potential recruiters but it is not a direct correlation between the two. It is a positive sign, but we won't know till the placement season what the actual scene will be like.”

At IIM-Bangalore, which was the last to start its placement process, this week 150 companies (compared to 120 in 2008) turned up to choose internees. The batch, comprising 348 students (as against 247 last year), chose jobs in a diverse set of profiles, from investment banking and retail to tech firms and even entrepreneurial outfits.

About 50 per cent of the batch was placed in ‘slot zero,' the phase of placement which is reserved for the top or most-sought-after companies.

A “heartening trend,” as students put it, was that the much-coveted Investment Banking profile was back, forming 19 per cent of the pie (Goldman Sachs was the largest recruiter), followed by finance (16 per cent), consulting (15 per cent), general management (12 per cent) and Information Technology (nine per cent). Interestingly, 70 new companies visited the campus, thus increasing the choice provided to students. New recruiters represented a whole spectrum of sectors including media, pharma, real estate, venture capital, hedge funds and niche consulting.

Batch profile matters

Says Praveen Krishnan: “Both the success of the placement process and the diversity of internships that you see on the list are a reflection of the batch profile.” In fact, Praveen is a former journalist who ran a theatre company before stepping into IIM, and his batch comprises former entrepreneurs, those who worked in the Army and Merchant Navy, any many more – apart from the usual bunch of engineers and finance graduates.

At IIM Calcutta, where the batch-size is even greater at 407 students – the largest ever to sit for placements in any IIM – the process reportedly took six days. With 61 international offers, just three behind IIM-B's record of 64, here too investment banks ruled the roost, and about 140 companies participated.

The relatively new IIM in Kozhikode also reflected positive trends, with its 309 students getting placed in eight long days (compared to four in IIM-A and B). Though the institute announced a highest stipend of Rs. 1 lakh, this is not comparable to other IIMs which have opted to not reveal this statistic, in keeping with their long standing policy on salaries/stipends.

IIMK also reported diverse profiles in recruitment (with more than 15 per cent of internships being in non-conventional sectors such as non-governmental organisations and micro credit), perhaps also reflective of the diversity of students and the batch profiling being practised by these elite institutes.

Considering that investment banks did not make too many offers last year, neither in summer or final year placements, this was certainly a comeback. At IIM-A, with a batch size of 310, placements took four days and finance remained the most-sought-after profile, followed by consulting and general management. This, of course, is a reversal of trends, compared to last year.