The recent high number of IIT Bombay graduates still looking for a job post the placement round in November has raised questions of how all IITs can prepare for economic slowdown and low hiring’s. File pic/Sameer Markande

The graduating class of IIT Bombay 2023 was a happy one. With an 82 per cent placement rate in the prestigious institute, which 20-year-olds wouldn’t be?

The graduating class of this year,though, is not as happy. An international economic slowdown, and no change in placement strategy to accommodate this, has left 35.8 per cent of graduates out of work.

This number was so surprising in the hiring grounds of prestigious firms such as McKinsey & Company, Bear Clothing Company and Amazon, that it is almost a national crisis. If an IIT-B graduate can’t get a job right out of school, what chances do the rest of us have?

Author-journalist Debashish Roy Chowdhury, quoting a news report, said via his X handle, “For the first time, not all registered students from the highly sought-after computer science and engineering branch achieved placement, a departure from the norm of 100% placement success in this discipline. Have we hit Peak Amrit Kaal already? (sic)”

A day after (April 3) the news took over the internet, IIT-B put out a clarification on X saying only 6.1 per cent of the current graduates are looking for jobs.
An accompanying pie chart showed that 1.6 per cent of the graduate base had opted to work in start-ups; 4.3 per cent hadn’t settled on a future employer yet, 8.3 per cent had chosen public service, 10.3 per cent were looking at jobs outside of those offered on IIT-B campus, 12.2 per cent were pursuing a higher degree, and 57.1 per cent had been placed. Students say the institute is pursuing Indian start-ups more aggressively, as they seem to be the only ones with semi-hiring power.
We reached out to current students and alumni, and while very few were willing to speak to us, some agreed on the condition of anonymity.

Many opined that the longstanding recruitment system needs rehaul. “The placement cell is mainly driven by students who co-ordinate with the professor in charge and recruitment heads of companies,” he told us. “International companies get the prime slot of two weeks in December when they set up shop on campus. Within this slot, the premium slots are the first two sessions of the first day. If a company is not given this slot, the recruiters move on to other IITs. They want first pick and strong-arm placement managers to give them this slot. This year, these companies—mostly multinationals—picked only one or two students each. Meanwhile, the Indian companies moved on to the next IIT. Since placement managers are students themselves, there is clear imbalance of negotiation powers.”

However, an alumnus dismisses this theory saying, “I have been working for nine years, and don’t think companies have more power than an IIT-B student; I wish I was back in IIT-B and bargaining a package. In the real world, you never have the upper hand; the House always wins. I was recruited by an international company in the first session of the first day. They come looking for you; they want the best. We must understand that there is a great IT slump. My friends from Harvard Business School also don’t have a job in hand. That’s how bad it is.” News reports concur that only 86 per cent of Harvard’s 2024 graduates have found jobs.

A gap between life skills and rote knowledge has given rise to hiring platforms such as Unstop. Based out of Delhi, it helps graduates of all streams build their brands. The platform takes on freshers. “While compiling the annual Unstop Talent Report 2024, we noticed that recruiters find it challenging to secure the right talent with the required skill sets,” says Ankit Aggarwal, Founder and CEO. “The curriculum doesn’t always align with real-world problems the students need to resolve. So companies rely on case-study competitions and hackathons to assess candidates in real time.” The report found that across B-Schools, Google tops the list of dream employers, followed by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), McKinsey and Company, and Amazon.

Sonica Aron, Founder of Marching Sheep, a Human Resource firm, feels such gaps in recruitment have multiple reasons. “There are rapid changes in technology, business models, and geo-political issues leading to economic uncertainty and changing mindset of consumers,” she says. “As organisations scramble to deal with these factors, there is pressure on productivity and profitability. The curriculum may be unable to cater to the kind of skills the changing industry needs. Some institutes are able to catch up, some are not.”

Her suggestion is to relook at established systems and processes. “This issue requires systemic attention; it is not just about what to look for in students. It may need upgrading of curriculum to ensure employability.”

IIT Bombay sent a response to mid-day’s queries that said, “IT/software hiring by regular recruiters who usually higher in substantial numbers was lower this year. The placement team has been contacting several new companies who have also reciprocated our interest.Students are aware of the job market and adapt accordingly. Some students do opt for higher studies if they do not get selected for jobs having profiles of their interest. Companies that have been invited are offering competitive salary packages and our students are accepting these offers. The students have ready access to the institute counsellors and have been meeting them as and when required. Students have been made aware that quite a few companies are planning to visit the campus and we expect several more students to be placed before the season ends.”

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