April 2014: Three young graduates from the Indian School of Business ventured out to life after B-school. Ankur Majumder joined Yes Bank, Satish Gupta opted for Baker Hughes, a leading oilfield services company, and Siddharth Arora took charge as product manager at Rummycircle, an online gaming portal.e-commerce industry. "We did not want to miss out on the exponential growth (of e-commerce)," says Arora. "The fear of losing out" not only made them start out on their own, but also made leaving stable jobs "a risk worth-taking".
The actions of the trio are really a reflection of the mood among the new management graduates in India today - jumping into a space that has the potential to scale up quickly; finding a challenging role and exploring untested waters. As opportunity beckons talent, it is not surprising, therefore, that this year's Business Today-MDRA survey of 269 of India's Best B-schools finds that this is, perhaps, the best time to be a student of business management. Especially, for those in leading B-schools, where recruiters compete fiercely to hire.
If names of a few other reputed schools are missing from the list, it is because this time, too, institutes such as IIM-Bangalore and IIM-Lucknow stayed away from the survey. Some of the others did not submit their objective data on time or did not participate.
The common thread across campuses was better placements. What stood out about the placements in the last academic year - and expected to accentuate this year - is a mix of factors. First, there was an increase in the breadth and depth in the offers in the form of a higher number of sectors represented on the campus. Among sectors, besides the traditional recruiters such as Banking and Financial Services (BFSI) and consulting, the year saw the return of the finance, PE and VC firms.
Focus on Operations
Talk to deans, directors, placement heads, students or HR executives across companies on the recruiter sentiment and the first few minutes of the conversation linger around the emergence of e-commerce and other "new age sectors" emerging as the biggest recruiters at B-schools. "While traditional sectors like consulting, finance, FMCG have continued to hire, the buoyancy came from e-commerce," says Ajit Rang-nekar, dean of Indian School of Business, which ranks second in our rankings of one-year MBA schools. What he is referring to is the technology-based companies. Be it horizontal e-commerce players such as Flipkart and Amazon; search-and-second-hand product marketplaces such as Quikr; or, on-demand companies like Ola, this trend has particularly accelerated in the past one year with almost one-fourth of all offers coming from such companies.
Students are obviously thrilled about the higher compensation alongside the new and challenging roles. These are aspects that could have a bearing on traditional sectors like FMCG, manufacturing and consulting. Take the case of Nitin Agarwal, Assistant Vice President, Marketing, at Shopclues, for instance. The former Ashok Leyland and Gulf Oil employee, who joined the e-commerce site three years ago as a product manager and moved up the ladder to head the marketing division of the company, says: "Shopclues is not profitable at the moment, but thats our business choice. We want to invest in business and business growth. The kind of growth I have got here I could have never imagined getting it in a traditional sector company."
Says Prabir Jha, Global Chief People Officer at Cipla: "There is an obvious disruption in the B-school talent market today. Traditional favourites will need to add a new zing to their offerings to be competitive. An obvious focus will be to look for people with a passion for a specific segment." Jha, an XLRI alumnus and one who has a feel from across sectors, having earlier led HR and people functions at Reliance Industries and at Tata Motors, says: "They (the companies) will need to decide if they want just a ticket to play or a ticket to win." But then, it is not as if the demand from new sectors has in any way slowed down the non-technology companies or the traditional recruiters as they continue to hire.
Consulting, for instance, is still growing while marketing is sustaining its growth. The key point being that if there is demand from new players and traditional recruiters are also growing and hiring, it means more competition for talent and also more choices for students. Along with the earlier preferences for sectors such as consulting and marketing, now there are others such as finance and e-commerce that are in high demand as well.
Time to Think Ahead
It is not without reason, therefore, that leading schools, including IIM-A, are planning for tomorrow. "Placement outcomes are significantly influenced by business cycles and are only one measure of how the students are doing," feels Ashish Nanda, director, IIM-A. It is with good reason that IIM-A and others are planning for the future. "While ecommerce has been an important growth driver and will probably stay so next year too, I feel, we will see the next growth driver coming in the form of those sectors where there is an interface between technology and finance," says Ranjan Banerjee, Dean at SPJIMR. He is taking a cue here from the emergence of mobile wallets, a variety of payments banks, small finance banks and other banks, and, it is quite possible that in another three to four years they will make their way to the campuses. More on this in our next essay on how the leading B-schools in India are leveraging their strengths and preparing for future.
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