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BW Businessworld

'Right Person Should Get The Right Job'

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IIMs have been in news throughout the year -- be it the changing face of CAT or the placement session. IIM Ahmedabad, in particular, has been dominating the B-school news as the institute came up with the new 'cohort based' placement process. A lot has changed at IIM A since then. Saral Mukherjee, the placements chairperson at IIM Ahmedabad is the man behind the new system of placements which replaced the 'famous' day-based interview process. He spoke to BW Online's Chetna Mehra about the changes that entire placement process has gone through and why students should focus more on career building than compensation packages. Excerpts.
What is the cohort based system of placements and how is it different from the previous system?
The cohort based system is a collection of firms which offer similar career prospects. It is a system where students can opt for the similar kind of roles or the similar salary packages that are available. We have a cohort which takes into consideration the similar kind of profiles. For instance, there is a strategy consulting cohort and investment banking cohort, etc. In these types of cohort, there is some similarity in kind of roles and salary packages that are offered.

Earlier we had what is called the ‘day-based system' or slot system where on a particular day there would be different kind of firms on the campus including those with finance, consulting and marketing roles. Under this system we also have certain recruiters who have factually pitched their firm to the students for the placement day because it was not just the roles that were offered but the firm too.

In cohort based system we are not concerned about the firm here but the roles they offer. Let's say an FMCG marketing firm may have an internal IT role to offer. That's where we are differentiating. It's not the firm we are really looking at it's the roles that we are looking at. It's like an investment bank can also have an internal operations role which is different from a pure investment banking role, so, similar kinds of roles would be coming on the campus on a particular day.

What was the need to come up with this new system?
See, we had about 120 to 180 students for a long time and now we have around 300 students and soon we will be having close to 400 students. And if you still have the day-based system, there will be a huge pressure in terms of meeting the time lines. If we have more number of students we cannot have the same number of the recruiters as earlier we used too. And if the number of recruiters increase on a particular day, then the time required for interviewing has to go down. And the quality of the process would be compromised as we would get into the time pressure. And finishing the process in time is not at all our objective.

So, we realised that we had no option but to move out of the very process. That's why decided to change the objective of the placements and introduced the cohort based system which is very different from the previous process. Our objective is that right person should get the right job.

Are there any other changes that IIM Ahmedabad has gone through like lower the hiring fee, etc.?
Our raising of hiring fee has nothing to do with the main process, as the raising or lowering of hiring fees is completely based on the economic conditions. We haven't substantially increased the placement fees this year. There are two components attached – fixed fees and variable fees. Fixed placements fee is the same as last year and the variable fees has different slabs. And we have slightly changed those slabs.

B-School salaries often get misquoted in the media leading to a layman thinking that MBA is a sure shot way to their economical freedom?
We have always talked about what official data and give out salary figures in rupees and dollars separately. And we are totally against converting the dollar salaries to rupee figures. The dollar salary would not be earned in India and one should not just look at the revenue side but the expenses side too which would be in dollars too. Converting the dollar salaries to rupees is simply sensational. The main focus of placements is preparing students for leadership roles and not the salaries. If we are only looking at the salaries it will degrade the whole process.

Are you planning to incorporate more changes to the entire placement process in the coming time?
Yes, more changes are in the pipeline but we would not want to talk about it till we implement these changes. Even for the cohort based system we went ahead with a huge internal process of discussing changes for almost a year with the stakeholders.

But I would like to specifically mention that placements are always in lines with the state of the economy. As the economic reality changes it we will keep changing with it. So, we won't say this is the final policy. Now what we are going to do is to take the feedback of the students and recruiters. We will see that what are the good things about the cohort based placement system and what are the things that needs to be improved. And again we can share it with all the institutes so they can also learn from what we have seen.

The placements office of IIM Ahmedabad has four different systems of placements running at one point of time. This cohort based system is only for the final-year PGP batch, for the summer placements we still have the day-based system running. Different situations demand different kind of systems. For example the PGPX placements are on rolling basis. So, what we mean to say is different kinds of placements different kind of systems.