Business Today

Lesson for B-school students: Do Your Homework

Pick up a newspaper or go online and not a day passes by without some print space and cyberspace devoted to a leading technical school or a business school blacklisting or threatening to boycott a company that has reneged on its promise made to students while hiring on campus.

twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: June 8, 2016  | 19:46 IST

E Kumar Sharma, Associate Editor, Business Today
Pick up a newspaper or go online and not a day passes by without some print space and cyberspace devoted to a leading technical school or a business school blacklisting or threatening to boycott a company that has reneged on its promise made to students while hiring on campus.

Some, like the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, have chosen not to blacklist and have left it to the students and the placement process. Therefore, it is with good reason that how schools should and do respond under such situations, and what options these leave for students are issues hotly debated today.

After all, don't we all join the best technical and management schools because at the end of the programme we want to see ourselves land jobs at the best companies on the planet with job profiles we have been only dreaming of so far. Right? Well, yes and no.

The answer depends on who you are talking to. Most students feel since schools market themselves with the kind of placements they get for their students, it is their responsibility to ensure students are placed well. No, say some veterans in the education space arguing that "the entire Indian education system is somehow making its students believe that they are entitled to something".

After all, the argument goes: students have been taught business ups and downs and the importance of due diligence, therefore when it comes to their career decisions, why should they abdicate the responsibility of selecting the company to their school? "If MBA students from top institutions cannot judge the risk of a company they are joining, then what is their ability to evaluate business risks?" asks Ajit Rangnekar, former dean of the Indian School of Business.

Therefore, he told me, "why should a school boycott a company, let the student decide whether to take or not to take an offer….I would rather have a company coming to campus and no student applying for it…that is a much better lesson for a company rather than have a school blacklist the company and not allow it to visit the campus."

While Rangnekar is quite clear that these are his personal views, he however felt that schools must come down heavily if a company makes changes or deviates from its original offer, for that has nothing to do with business cycles. Therefore, his take is, if the intention of a company was genuine and if there are genuine changes in the circumstances, then these have to be accepted and schools will have to work with the students to look for other options.

In case you get a doubt on what we mean by "genuine changes in circumstances", we would mean things like delays in the expected growth capital or fund infusion that a start-up was expecting. If say, the funding is expected in July or August, but companies may be required to take a bet on it by December and many a times, these decisions are made on past experiences and certain expectations, which may or may not materialise.

Broadly, there are two recruitment models at work globally. In Europe, for instance, people go and find their jobs as the schools encourage students to plan their own careers, which is not the case in the US, which is a placement market.

However, leaders of leading business schools in India seem clear on what to expect: "If you offer a salary to a student then as a responsible company you should also plan and have at least a two to three year horizon in mind. So, if a start up hires a student and six months down the line, is not able to keep the promise, it is irresponsible," says Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, S P Jain Institute of Management & Research. So, how should a campus deal with it given that companies and campuses tend to be entities that share long term relationship and here is how he summed it up: "if the situation with a start-up is of a short term nature and it has behaved transparently then the school should take a partnership view, but if a start-up has behaved in a manner that is not transparent then there is a trust issue in that partnership and then I would look at blacklisting. So, I will take a partnership view as long as the spirit of partnership has not been violated."

There are perhaps lessons in these for companies visiting campuses and for students accepting offers. If not handled well, companies could run the risk of losing more than just suffering the downside of a business cycle. As for students, doing homework has always helped and will do them good here too.

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