Business Today

Chasing the gravy train

Financial services and consulting are the favourite career choices of B-school grads. Marketing takes a back seat.

By Anusha Subramanian        Print Edition: Sept 23, 2007

When Aditi Krishnakumar stepped out of IIM Ahmedabad earlier in the year and did her summer internship with Edelweiss Capital, a financial services house in Mumbai, she was pretty clear which way to go. Decisively, she joined up with the investment banking and broking firm as an associate, and is currently hard at it in the asset management department.

In fact, ever since the 22-year-old Krishnakumar completed her graduation (maths), she was pretty sure that finance was the way to go. That the financial services space itself has been booming for the past four years did help in convincing her that the best opportunities for growth existed in this buzzing sector.

Perhaps an exception, Krishnakumar wasn't lured by the fancy pay packets being offered by the big global investment banks on the street. "I was never keen on foreign placements. Domestic companies offer you better career growth opportunities," she offers.

Edelweiss, for its part, is no tiny outfit on Dalal Street. With revenues of a little over $90 million (Rs 369 crore), and investors like the Government of Singapore and Lehman Brothers, it's on its way to giving the global banks a run for their money. As Swaran Sehgal, Vice President & Head (Human Resources), Edelweiss Capital, says: "The financial sector growth story is a long-term one and we are likely to see further exponential growth in this sector in the next 5-10 years. Money is not the only criteria; students see a fast career opportunity and growth along with the sector growth."

Edelweiss Capital has strong summer internship programmes for B-school graduates. This year, Edelweiss Capital recruited 21 graduates from the various IIMs across India. To be sure, however, Edelweiss isn't the only financial services powerhouse on The Street that's wooing B-school freshers.

Right from the global giants like Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, jpmorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, ABN Amro, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank, to the local hot shops like the ICICI Group, Kotak, Indiabulls and yes Bank, every financial services player of note has queued up at the doors of the best business schools of India.

At IIM-A, for instance, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers were the biggest recruiters. The cream of IIM-B was flooded with offers from ICICI Bank and Barclays. And at IIM-C, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, HSBC, ING, UBS, Deutsche and JPMorgan Chase were some of the biggest and star recruiters.

It's a trend that began last year. Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs occupied the top 10 slots in the seventh round of the ACNielsen-Campus Track B-school Survey 2006. "Our interaction with students indicated that marketing and finance are the most opted for specialisations followed by systems.

But management consulting, foreign banks and investment banks were the first two-three choices of industries for making a career followed by software/it Consulting and FMCG," says Vatsala Pant, Associate Director (Client Service), The Nielsen Company.

Overall McKinsey continues to top the Campus Recruiter Index, followed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Lehman Brothers, a new entrant in the top 10 in the last Campus Track study. In 2007, McKinsey, Boston Consulting and Bain Consulting were busy at the top three IIMs.

So, where does that leave yesteryear's favourite- marketing? It doesn't lag too far behind, but it lags nevertheless. At XLRI's recently-concluded campus recruitment, for instance, 30 per cent of the B-school's 180 business management and personnel management & industrial relations students were picked up by the financial sector; 24 per cent opted for jobs with consulting firms. And the fast moving consumer goods industry settled for 20 per cent of the graduates.

The companies included Procter & Gamble, ITC, Asian Paints, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Nokia, Marico, Nestle, Cadbury's, Colgate-Palmolive, Pepsi, ICI Paints, and Reckitt Benckiser.

Sagar Balan, head of the placements committee at Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), explains how the scenario has changed. "It is all linked to India's growth story. In the '80s, the FMCG sector was leading the growth path and students preferred a Lever or a Colgate, among others," says Balan.

This continued till about 2000 until the IT wave started. At the same time, business consulting started gaining ground with several consulting firms setting up shop in India and recruiting from top B-Schools. "Today, along with consulting firms, financial services firms are also making a mark at B-schools," Balan adds.

Consulting, it would appear, is the flavour for all seasons. So much so that executives aren't averse to switching horses in mid-stream. For instance, consider Zenobia Driver, an IIM-B graduate of the 2000 batch, who chose to move to consulting after a four-year stint in sales and marketing department of an MNC FMCG company. She first joined a Bangalore consulting firm called Momentum Strategy and more recently, joined Monitor Group, a consulting firm co-founded by Harvard professor Michael Porter.

"I wanted to do customer research, branding, and look into the area of product development. Momentum was doing some good branding strategy and, therefore, my entry into consulting started with them." But it wasn't long before Driver began looking for a bigger challenge, in the guise of "some rigorous analytical work", which she duly found at Monitor.

But if consulting and financial services are more popular than marketing today, fatter pay packets may have something to do with that phenomenon. Industry sources indicate that foreign banks and investment banks pay dollar salaries in the range of $85,000-100,000 per annum for fresh graduates from a premier B-school. On the domestic front, investment banks are offering salaries that start from Rs 13 lakh and go up to as much as Rs 22 lakh per annum.

Commercial banks are believed to be offering Rs 10-14 lakh per annum. And consulting firms are paying Rs 12-16 lakh per annum. As against this, FMCG companies pay Rs 8-10 lakh a year. Points out Hamsaz Wadhwani, Associate Director at Emmay hr, an executive search and hr consultancy firm: "Pay scales of foreign and investment banks are much higher, and FMCG companies are finding it difficult to match them."

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