Indian Business Schools Back on Wall St. Radar

The B-school is back in business. After a year-long stupor that saw billion-dollar names shying away from campuses in the wake of the global financial slowdown, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are waking up to a buzzing summer internship season, a pointer to a packed final placement list.

Goldman Sachs, the investment bank that just emerged a tad stronger from the slowdown, is back at IIM campuses with a bigger number of offers, and so are the traditional Slot Zero names-the B-school jargon for the most coveted-like McKinsey & Co, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, UBS and Boston Consulting Group.

The summer placement season-set to begin early November-often mirrors the final placement lineup as companies tend to make job offers depending on the candidates' performance during the two-month internship. IIM-Bangalore, for instance, has scored a 100% conversion rate for the current batch in consultancy summer jobs.

"Companies are bullish this year," says IIM-Calcutta's Prafulla Agnihotri, who is the chairperson for career development and placements.

Around 100-odd companies have confirmed their participation across the seven IIM campuses for picking up summer internees, and the list includes top Indian names such as Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and Procter & Gamble (P&G ). The return of i-banks to the campuses is significant since they traditionally opt to select from their internees instead of scouting the campuses with final recruitment offers.

IIM-Lucknow placement committee member Sharat Chander says final placements in 2010 are showing every indication of being a whole lot better than last year, if summer placement trends are anything to go by. "This is especially true of the financial sector, hit the most by the economic downturn last year," he says.

Smaller firms, including start-ups, that managed to land talent dirt cheap last year too are back now, but with sweetened deals in the face of increasing competition. IIM-C's Agnihotri says many of them offer students more challenging roles with an exposure to serious decision-making.

While none of the institutes wanted to risk any official comment, the general sentiment is that stipends for the two-month period will also go up this year compared to 2008. Stipends generally range from Rs 10,000-15 ,000 per month on the lowest side, and had gone up to $20,000-plus for a two-month foreign internship in the pre-slowdown days. "There is a positive sentiment on campus," says Sapna Agarwal, head-career development services, at IIMB.

For students, this return of enthusiasm means they will get placed faster, at a job of their choice, she says. All the rush notwithstanding, the process this year is unlikely to be wrapped up in the usual six-day period. Last year, because of the low turnout by companies, the summer placement season was extended across campuses. However, this year, with an increased number of students to place, the process may take the same time as last year.

Mr Agnihotri says his school will be placing 408 students this year, up from last year's 300-odd students. "Slot 0 and Slot 1 will be of two days each, after which the process will be open-ended. We want to give our students plenty of options," he says. The summer glow comes just after the IIMs did a successful pre-placement offer (PPO) season. Around 15-20% of the batch at IIM-A, B and C have got offers till now. Other IIMs like Lucknow and Kozhikode, too, are witnessing a much better flow of job offers as compared to the past year.

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