High Fives on Campus

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The Big Fat Cheque Job makes a comeback in business schools across the country.

If the buss on B-school campuses is any barometer of India Inc’s health, things are looking up again after an extended period of gloom (2008-09 was an annus horribilis for Indian B-schools). Big recruiters that were too recession-stricken to dangle seven-digit salary packages to lure fresh MBAs are set to make a dramatic re-entry, if you go by the early stage empirical evidence. Top-notch institutes such as the IIMs, XLRI and even several second tier B-schools are reporting a happy increase in pre-placement offers (PPOs) being made to students. These are job offers made even before the first day of placement season. Says PD Jose, chairman of IIM-Bangalore’s placement committee, “We are witnessing greater interest compared to last year among companies to sign up candidates. What’s more positive is the fact that it’s not one particular industry that’s upbeat on hiring. We’ve got a good mix of infotech, consulting, financial services, manufacturing and marketing companies.”

Other B-school campuses in India also report a return of recruiter confidence. While the placement season begins in earnest only in February, the PPO rush is a welcome relief. But it’s also true that B-schools, haunted by last year’s experience, are sparing no effort to get as many firms as possible hiring students as early as possible. Even the IIMs are getting off their high horses and doing the once unthinkable: canvassing hard to have recruiters make PPOs.

In 2007-08, the halcyon days of B-school glory and mind-boggling salaries, all the IIMs put together had in their kitty close to 500 PPOs. Last year, however, the numbers dwindled by half. “We have already managed to place 175 of our students, and are optimistic about 100 per cent placements by the end of the course,” says BL Bhambhani of Pune-based Balaji Institute of Modern Management. Salary packages had dropped precipitously last year, but the return of traditional campus high-spenders McKinsey & Co, Bain, Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting has raised students’ hopes.

“We are hoping to place nearly a fourth of our students even before the placement season begins. Undeniably, the confidence is back for companies to expand their talent base,” says Harivansh Chaturvedi, director of the Greater Noida-based Birla Institute of Management Technology (Bimtec).

The surge in sentiment at B-schools is neither surprising nor sudden. In a recent employment survey done by Manpower Inc, a leading global HR consultancy, Indian companies emerged the most optimistic in the world. According to Manpower, with a Net Employment Outlook of 39 per cent, Indian employers reported the most optimistic forecast among all 35 countries participating in the survey. India’s own numbers had improved by 11 percentage points quarter-over-quarter, and improved by 18 percentage points when compared to the first quarter of 2009. ‘Job seekers in the services industry sector, public administration & education sector, mining and construction sector, finance, insurance, real estate, and the wholesale and retail trade sector, can look forward to the most favourable hiring environment,’ says the report.

The country’s leading job search portal’s monthly Jobspeak report also points out that the ITeS and BPO industry saw a 4.4 per cent increase in hiring activity in October 2009 as compared to the previous month. The story was the same for other large-scale employment generating sectors such as oil and gas, banking and financial services and healthcare. The country’s three biggest infotech outsourcing firms have all indicated they would soon be back to hiring in large numbers. Some time back, Wipro had stated it would hire 5,000 people in the next two months, and in October, Infosys Technologies said it plans to hire 2,000 more people in 2009-10 than originally budgeted.

Time , then, to pop the bubbly?