Coronavirus impact: IIM students struggle to get summer internships, settle for unpaid work

Several firms have revoked internship offers, making students desperate since many IIMs have credits for the projects done at work

IIM-Calcutta IIM-Calcutta

It's not often that students from India's top B-schools give a shout out to their LinkedIn community for summer internship offers - they are creme de la creme after all and companies are ready to offer a platform. But the situation has drastically changed this year. Riddhi Patel, first year student at IIM-Indore posted on LinkedIn how an ecommerce firm revoked her internship offer for the role of Business Development. She wrote she was looking for an alternative.

Her post got phenomenal response with over 1,100 likes and 234 comments and she got an internship. But, that is not the case with many others.

Patel tells Business Today how several firms have revoked internship offers, making students desperate since many IIMs have credits for the projects done at work. She says, "I have many friends across IIMs who have got internships but are not getting any stipend." Usually, the average range for the internship can be in the range Rs 70,000 to Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Shashikant Nayak, Placement Coordinator at IIM Jammu, says that their batch had 97 students, from those 60 have got summer internships and the rest 30-35 are still figuring out different options. "Some firms are saying they will start internship around 10-15 May. Those students who haven't got an offer are trying on their own. The Placement committee is also helping them," says Nayak.

"Two companies had offered Rs 50,000 per month for sales role but they later made it unpaid internship and the students are now doing market research projects," he says.

Janat Shah, Director of IIM Udaipur, says that about 12 companies canceled their internship offers from a total of 87 firms that came to recruit first-year students. Among them 28 students had got offers from 3 companies in Dubai; all of those got canceled. "It is ultimately the company's decision which we respect. When they told us, our team got these students other internship offers," says Shah. Out of their 285 students, 133 have started internships virtually, especially those job roles that could be done remotely, the rest will start in May.

He says that there was a concern that some students might not get internships. "We wanted to make sure the quality of experience of a student does not suffer. And, if there was a degradation of experience we can make up for it somewhere else," says Shah. They created an alumni network of mentors to guide the students during the internship process and help them address the red flags, says Shah. As of now, five students are still looking for internships.

Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM Kozhikode says significant readjustment were done in internships this year. "There were some cancellations, then some internships were moved online and new job roles were given to students.  Most of these roles are ones that can be done remotely," he says.  The duration of the internship was also reduced to six weeks. From the 131 companies, there were 6-7 companies that rescinded the internship offers. The institute has helped the students find alternative roles.

Even IIM Ahmedabad wasn't spared where four per cent of the internship offers got cancelled. Over 120 companies had approached initially. Other recruiters and alumni chipped in and accommodated students whose internships were cancelled, says Amit Karna, Associate Professor of Strategy and Chairperson Placements at IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA).

He says, almost all the internships are currently happening virtually and a few have got deferred to May. Due to these changes IIMA had to make certain changes to its academic programme requirements.  "Looking at the constraints faced by firms, we are allowing virtual internships (working from remote location) as a valid mode. We have also allowed, on a case to case basis, if firms have asked for reduced duration of up to 6 weeks. Plus, instead of starting the second year for these students on 5 June, we are now starting in first week of July," says Karna.  The rationale was the extension will give the leeway for more students to be accommodated due to deferred date of internships, and still complete 6-8 weeks of internship.

IIM Calcutta too allowed a mix of virtual and on-field modes of internship to allow digital onboarding of the students. IIM Calcutta's Director Anju Seth said, "We extended the internship period till 11 July (instead of 6 June as originally planned) to allow five additional weeks for the firms and interns. We are considering all scenarios in this uncertain environment to effectively assist all students to complete their internships."

Abhishek Goel, Placement Committee Chairperson added, "A few recruiters have requested for more time as they wait for the lockdown to be relaxed.  While all recruiters honoured their promised internships, five recruiters had rescinded their internship offers due to the changed business scenario affecting 25 out of 480 students. The affected students have got new internships."

Usually the internship for IIMs is for eight weeks from 1 April to 31 May.

Also Read: India's unemployment rate falls to 21.1%, lowest during coronavirus lockdown: CMIE

Also Read: Coronavirus: First COVID-19 case reported from Supreme Court