Sleepless in IIM-A

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A dream.

Disclaimer: I wrote this right after the summer placement process. Originally, I didnt want to put this up, until someone pasted the whole post as a comment on one of my earlier posts. So I thought, what the heck, let me post it myself. Please note that this is just my personal opinion and doesnt represent anything or anyone else.

The most important event in the second term occurs right after the mid terms - the summer placements.

Now, summer placements might not have been such a big deal, if only there hadnt been a thing called as an I-bank. I-banks or investment banks, for the uninitiated, are organizations which facilitate IPO issues, mergers and acquisitions, and trading for institutional clients. And in the process they make insane amounts of money.

They also pay their employees insane amounts of money.

I probably dont have to mention that all those record breaking salaries offered to IIM-A grads that you read about in the papers are all by I-banks.

To begin explaining to you, the effect these banks have on the IIM-A psyche, let me start with the way placements are structured in IIM-A.

There are hundreds of companies which come on campus for the summer placements. To let the students pick the best companies and let the best companies have a shot at the largest pool of students first, the placement committee of IIM-A (placecomm) has, over the years, divided the list of companies into two or three categories and allotted them slots during which they could interact with and interview the students. These slots are called Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3. The categorization is usually done by students on the basis of the quality of job, reputation, pay and career prospects.

For example, red hot companies like HLL and P&G companies would appear on Day 1, and students would die to get placed in companies coming on Day 1. Vindi Banga was placed on Day 1 with HLL.

Well, that was a few decades back.

A few years back, one particular Director working in a big bank in New York, with the idea of contributing back to his alma mater, convinced his superiors and colleagues to travel 15000 kilometers to Ahmedabad, to recruit analysts and associates for his bank.

The salary offered was more than five times greater than those offered by the Day 1 companies. Placements were for locations in Wall Street. It seemed a no-brainer for this bank to be given the first shot at interviewing the students.

And so, Day Zero was born.

"Hey Bharthi, how many people have been placed today ?"

"Many. But there are at least 20 more who are yet to be placed."

"Shit. They are gonna be awfully upset if they spill over to Day 1."

"Dont worry. Day zero's not over yet. We can still hope to place everyone."

"Yes. Lets hope."

Bharthi's cell rang and she moved to answer the call. Immediately after that, she yelled out a few names - her voice barely audible over the din in the room.

He looked around CR-10. 200 people impeccably dressed in suits. Some of them joking around, some smiling with satisfaction, some others in a pensive mood, and some with a worried expression. The tension in the room wafted through the noise into the atmosphere.

Information Asymmetry is a concept encountered in microeconomics. It refers to the situation when one party knows more than the other party about a product being transacted. For instance, a person who purchases life insurance would be better informed about his health than his insurance agent. Needless to say, it is in the insurance company's interest to do as much as possible in order to reduce the information gap.

When the final placements happen, companies have an important number to base their selections on - the CGPA. But when the recruitments for summers happen, the number's not known yet, or the time period is too short for someone to be judged purely by the CGPA. In such a situation, various factors play a role in deciding a candidate's suitability for the job, one of which is the student's past profile.

As far as the students are concerned, a summer internship in an i-bank means bypassing one and half years of hard-core, maddening competition to secure an i-banking career abroad.

Its a short cut.

"People, please be quiet", Bharthi's voice tried to make its presence felt in the noise. "The offer window opens now. I am gonna announce the names."

In a second, silence enveloped the room. This was the moment people were waiting for - the announcement of the final offers.

"Rajshree Dutta..."

One by one names were announced to heavy thumping of desks. The smiling student went to the adjacent room where documents had to be signed.

As time went by, tension grew in all those faces whose names havent been announced yet.

Will I be pushed to Day 1? Do I have to go through this stressful process again tomorrow?
That was the thought uppermost in everyone's minds. And when their names finally came, a huge wave of relief washed away the anxiety.

When the last name was announced, a roar went around the room. The celebrations began...

The number of I-banks coming down to IIM-A has grown in the last few years, and a lot of "bulge-bracket" banks come down these days. Banks like Lehmann Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Citigroup are usually expected to hire IIM-A students for summers.

Its funny how almost everyone on campus is suddenly interested in finance. The amount of preparation that goes into a day zero interview simply cannot be not described here. (It would go into my book though).

There is however a sad angle to this. There are over 200 deserving students here in IIM-A and the number of such offers are less than a half of that. A lot of people are left out.

Its tragic to see people attach so much importance to Day Zero that they are shattered when they dont make it to these jobs. Some of them are hit so hard that they are not able to muster the strength to continue with the stressful placement process and lose out on jobs on offer the next day.

People change their perceptions about others. Seeds of bitterness are sown.

A hundred hands slapped him on his back.

"Good show man !"

"Congrats, dude !"

Smiling, he went to the other room. A bunch of placecommers were sitting around the placecomm head. The placecomm head looked at a sheet of paper and said "Kotak. Do you accept?"

"Yes, I do."

A placecommer came to him with a sheet of paper. She gestured at a spot and asked him to sign there. As he took the sheet from her, he smiled at her.

"I guess, with me, everyone's been placed on day zero."

"Yes. Its been a great year."

"What about all the companies which are coming tomorrow?"

"I am afraid, we'll have to turn them down. There just are no students left for those jobs."

"Just for curiosity sake, what are the companies that are coming down tomorrow?"

"Oh, all those foreign I-banks. Foreign placements are out of fashion these days. I guess, they wouldnt be coming down next year onwards."

"Hmm." he said.

He looked down at the sheet, scribbled his signature and under it, the date.

The date read, "10th November, 2015".

"I dont understand why people get depressed when they dont make it into Day Zero companies. There are some terrific companies coming down for Day 1. The kind of roles they offer are extremely exciting. Did you look at the pay most of these companies are offering? They are awesome. And it can only get better. There would come a day when students of IIM-A would reject foreign i-bank offers for jobs in India. There'd be a day when every IIM-A graduate would decide to stay back and contribute to India. There'd be a day when foreign i-banks would be relegated to Day 1. Ten years down the line, we're gonna see it happen. Damn, its been happening around us as we speak. Indian companies are flexing their muscles abroad by acquiring companies left and right. They are taking over foreign companies which are as much as three times their size. Indians are shaping the corpoate world all by themselves. Take this to its logical conclusion, and you'd see that India is as good a place to be in as any." - Ashwin.