Business Today

This grass is greener

IIT graduates are choosing career options in India over job offers abroad—either as entrepreneurs or in sectors far removed from their skill sets, such as finance and consulting.

Tejeesh N.S. Behl        Print Edition: May 4, 2008

Ashish Bhat, an electrical engineering graduate from IIT Mumbai’s 2006 batch, decided to opt out of placement interviews to focus on his own entrepreneurial ambitions. IdeaForge, a producer of environment and customer-friendly technologies, was born as a partnership of three IITians. “One of the partners, Rahul Singh, is a batchmate while another, Ankit Mehta, is a year senior,” says Bhat, 24. Interestingly, only Mehta has some prior work experience. Singh also refused a job offer, from Lehman Brothers.

Home sweet home: An increasing number of IITians are staying put in India
An increasing number of IITians are staying put in India
There’s another interesting trend: an increasing number of IITians are opting for careers in finance armed with only an engineering degree and with no grounding in finance. Saurabh Panigrahy, a civil engineering graduate from IIT Delhi’s 2005 batch, soon found out that the big bucks actually lay in finance. So, after a short stint at Oracle, he joined BA Continuum Services, a subsidiary of Bank of America, as an analyst. “I realised that there were more opportunities in the financial services sector than in technology or engineering.

Besides, you don’t need to have specialised knowledge at the analyst level—just the ability to work in a high pressure environment and an ability to crunch numbers,” he reasons, when quizzed about the mismatch between his education and profession.

Both Bhat and Panigrahy represent a growing breed of IIT graduates choosing career options in India over job offers abroad— either as entrepreneurs or in sectors far removed from their skill sets, such as finance and consulting. A recent Evalueserve survey says as much—while 35 per cent IITians moved abroad in the 1964-2001 period, the figure has come down to 17 per cent in the years since 2002, reflecting the promise held out by the boom in the Indian economy. Says Alok Aggarwal, Chairman and Co-founder, Evalueserve: “Compared to the period 1964-2001, when consulting and financial services were choices of only 9 per cent of the respondents, in the period 2002-08, the corresponding figure has zoomed to 30 per cent.”

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Justifying the reason for hiring IITians directly after graduation—as opposed to picking them up after they become MBAs, as many of them do—Manisha Girotra, MD and Chairperson (India), UBS, stresses their superior mathematical and analytical skills. “They have a head for numbers which comes in handy in financial services,” she points out, while conceding that hiring an engineering graduate minus an MBA from a top-notch institute also works out cheaper for recruiters.

What is also holding back the IITians from going overseas—especially to the US—is the economic slowdown there and the disillusionment with the overall quality of life in that country. In fact, the survey clearly states that while 60 per cent of those graduating in the years 1964-2001 thought the US and other developed countries offered better career opportunities, in the batches from 2002-2008, including the one passing out this year, the figure was down to 51 per cent. A majority, of course, also cited their desire to be closer to home and family as a reason to stay put. Home sweet home? Increasingly so, for the IITians.

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