Another Placement season. Another season of lucrative offers for some and heartbreak for others. Only this time around, there were a little too many heartbreaks. Far more than one associates with an institution like IIT Delhi . Despite 270 organisations offering nearly 400 job roles and 20 lavish international offers being tabled, the general feeling among the students, both the seniors and the juniors, is that of disappointment.
There was definitely a huge pressure on the placement season this year, considering heavy participation from 5th year dual and M.Tech students.
However, the successful intake numbers were a dismal figure, intensifying the burden on the season. Nearly 70% people opted for core or IT sector jobs while the widely sought-after consulting and finance sectors saw a dip with a mere 20% people getting placed there. This also reflects in the M.Tech students tasting greater success than previous years owing to the large participation by core companies. With Phase 1 of the season nearing its end, there are several questions that need to be answered and several topics that need to be pondered upon.
The “sanctity” of the placement season
Many of us see placements, as not only a starting step to our professional lives, preparing us for making an impact in the world out there, but also as the “final-report card” of the 4 years one spends at IIT. Hence, when the placement season finally does arrive, tension, anxiety and emotions are flying through the roof. The extensive preparation – the mocks, the resume making, the qualification tests- make you secretly strive for nothing less than a Day 1 job. Yet the problem arises, when we let the first job we get, be the sole criteria for judging how successful our college life was. The prevailing perception of the Day 1/2/3 broke many hearts this time around, with some of the “stud” people who have slogged throughout their college life not getting that coveted Day 1/2/3 job. Hence, as we discuss what went wrong during this years’ placement season, let’s just keep in mind what Kumar Sambhava said in his article “Why No One Should Celebrate This Year’s Placements” (Link below) “Let us not let the day we got placed decide our worth. Life is and should be much more than that.”
Shubham Sikka, an electrical engineering student who accepted a PPO at Adobe, believes that this years’ experience is only cautionary in nature for junior students and will fashion a more healthy culture in long term, hammering their dependencies on annual placements. There is a plethora of opportunities, outside the conventional box of thought, in the world outside; the box that has now come to frame the life of students in IITs for a surprisingly very long time.
The placement season might be very sacred. But that’s not because it shapes our next 2-3 years. It is because of the fact that preparing for it brings out the best in us and lets us reflect on our exploits, something many of us fail to do before we initiate the resume-making process. As Prashant Yadav rightly points out, " The casualties of a placement season are generally students who wish to pursue higher education or administrative services and sit in placements just for the sake of going through the experience." So celebrate the journey, not the fruit that lies at the end of the journey. For the fruit could lie painstakingly out of hand more often than not, but the journey stays forever.
The first party spoiler: The economy
The employment surge of recent years, owing to the incentivisation of startups by Narendra Modi, seems to have halted. Startups were pitched less this season due to a sense of volatility attached to their job offers. Last year, many IITians were left unemployed due to shutting down of startups. All the IITs have collectively blacklisted close to 22 startups and hence, the startups have become increasingly cautious in their approach to placements. Moreover, the market is at a low with global recession taking its toll on the finance and consultancy companies. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are being cited as the major reasons. The number of international companies might have increased this year, but the number of offers tabled is less. Indian companies are also preparing for the slowdown of economy following demonetization. This idea makes more sense, when you notice that companies like GS India, Microsoft Redmond or EXL that either directly benefit from foreign markets or are back offices for foreign based firms gloat over good intake numbers while companies like Flipkart and other Indian market based firms have either failed to attend the placement season or picked up mockingly low number of students.
The second party spoiler: Attitude of companies
Students are blaming the companies for “mishandling them” as some companies exceeded the time limit of 45 minutes for an interview which resulted in a domino effect, ultimately disturbing their future slots. A few companies, mainly consultancy, were seen waiting on students they had become keen on – a cheap trick to keep the competitors at bay. Companies like BCG, which took 10 students last year, accepted merely 4 students this time. A similar story holds for other consulting bigshots as well. FTI consulting, a Day 1 MNC, didn’t take anyone in spite of a rigorous interview process. Students have also questioned the late updating of shortlists, as it happened with Ernst and Young this time around. Their shortlist, updated at 2 am, gave students less than 5 hours to prepare for the 7 am GD (TnP states that it’s a common practice among companies to update after midnight as the portal has heavy traffic during daytime). This year, GS raised its voice against a company that was tabling offers during interview only, a dire violation of the Yellow form.Some more instances are cited below.
“2 students got shortlisted for a company’s interview; one had the interview at 8 AM and the other at noon. The company selected the first one before even taking the interview of the second.”
“Tata Steel gave an offer to a girl, who was not on the shortlist, and while she was coming to terms with it, they realised and corrected their mistake. However, when a preferred candidate rejected his offer and it was her “actual” time to get an offer, the company delayed by 3 long days.”
However, there was some good news as well. Some core companies and startups (eg. Fitso) hired more students than they had planned to.
The TnP conundrum: The third party spoiler?
When anything bad happens, human psychology dictates “Let’s initiate the Blame Game”. But how much can one really blame TnP for a poor season? Accusatory fingers are looming over TnP's performance and functioning as there have been instances of mismanagement, many of which have been brought to light.
Questions have been raised on the pitching, the slotting patterns and the transparency of the body. Companies like Paytm, Vodafone, EXL Analytics, which offered to select more students, were called very late. They instead got better slots in the other IITs and hence, they ended up selecting more students there and less than expected here. Concerns have also been raised on the test organisation system of TnP with Shuchi Maheshwari, a chemical engineering student saying, “Sometimes, too many placement tests happen on a single day. It leads to delays as well as a lot of inconvenience for both the students as well as the TnP cell.” A TnP volunteer adds, “Companies might mismanage passwords. Also, the booking for venues for conducting these tests can be made more student-friendly. LHC’s CSC is unavailable during the day and so exams get clustered.”
The major reason behind students’ frustration is however, the discrepancies in slotting patterns (a striking example of something that was there since a long time, but strayed into the limelight in the advent of a debacle). Some students had to give interviews in an order which was not in accordance with their preferred orders. In one instance, this has led to a student losing out on nearly 4 lakh between the two packages. However, a TnP official stated,
“There are always such unavoidable discrepancies. It arises due to inequalities in the preference for companies. This year, the number of students per slot was increased to 6 from 5. However, if 20 students opt for a company as their first preference, all can’t be given the same slot. Companies, lying lower down in the preference list and not having such a long waiting list, may have to be put first to prevent slotting clashes and ensure a timing that seems best for both the company and the concerned student. Also, due to the low hiring this year, students were given the opportunity of walk-in interviews which sometimes led to candidates waiting longer than expected. In fact, we had enforced security measures this year to keep a check on companies using cheap tricks.”
Indeed, a company offering 28 lakhs, was allotted Day 2 resulting in nagging doubts over the way companies get their slots. However, TnP officials have clarified that package might be a major criteria but factors such as loyalty to IITD over the past years needs to be taken into consideration. Esteemed companies, with relatively less packages, are also given Day1 as they are preferred by the students. Moreover, students claimed that TnP work should be more transparent. They stated that at least the students sitting for placements should be aware of their functioning. But this is not possible, as explained by TnP, since companies prefer interactions with a small group of people and won’t welcome any individual cases that may arise due to this proposed transparency. Another student expressed her concern below,
“Since the TnP has such a big responsibility, its work should be more reliable. The body should be made completely official. Since students form the TnP team, with most of them being First Year and Second Year students, they are generally not aware of the seriousness associated with their work and view it as a POR, just like any other POR.”
All in all, TnP’s functioning may have its flaws, but it strives to ensure maximum placements and keep the brand name of IIT Delhi intact. Some instances might suggest otherwise, but the idea that complacency and callousness from TnP’s side was the protagonist of a poor season seems a bit too far-fetched.
For sure, this season will beget a new interest in the relationship that TnP and students should maintain for a more inclusive and satisfactory placement experience. It’s time to review the existing methods and develop better alternatives. Administration should strive to bring students, opting for sidelined career options, in the limelight. Internship programs, both corporate and research based, need to be expanded to enhance the worth of PPOs and reduce the ever-increasing burden on the placement season. Maybe then everyone can be satisfied. Maybe.