Being the Director of LNMIIT Jaipur for about two years, I had lots of interesting experiences, some of which I intend to narrate on this blog. One of the most eye opening experience was the attitude of industry towards quality. They just could not care less.
I was trying my best to use the IIT Kanpur alumni network to convince companies to visit us for campus placement. The technical guys I would talk to would get convinced easily that our faculty was far superior to most institutes in the country. We had the best PhD faculty to student ratio outside the IIT system. The graduating students were all those who had a 4-digit rank in AIEEE. The labs, the library, the Internet and other such infrastructure was far superior to other places. The performance in 3rd party exams like GATE was very good. With all this, one would have thought that once the companies knew about our existence, it wouldn't be hard to convince them to come to campus.
I couldn't be more wrong. The technical guys would forward my letter/brochures etc., to their campus placement or talent acquisition departments, and that will be the end of everything. To give an example, there is this company who has a large setup in Gurgaon, and is in the business of developing communication software. Our curriculum was designed for this niche market, and included all basic courses of computer science and all basic courses of communication. The degree we awarded was in Communication and Computer Engineering. We sent our brochure and an invitation to the company, but no response. A few emails, but no response. Then a few phone calls, no commitment still. Then I activated my IITK alumni network. My batchmates and my students held top positions in the company. They promised to help.
A few days later, I received a phone call from some senior manager from HR department. "We are receiving many phone calls asking us to visit your campus. Can you do something so that these phone calls stop." I told her that it was simple. She could visit the campus, and we will not need to use our contacts. She told me bluntly that that will not happen. So I made a deal. If she could explain me the reason for not selecting our campus for placement, I will not try any further. She agreed and told me that they were going to 20 institutes in her zone (which included Jaipur besides NCR), and she finds more students that meet her minimum quality level than she can recruit. So she can't go to 21st college. I suggested that she could raise her merit bar a bit higher, which possibly will help her company.
I also told her that the kind of job they do, the employees need to understand both basic CS and basic communication stuff. She agreed and told me that they recruit either CS people and make them go through a training in basic communication, or recruit ECE graduates and make them go through a training in basic CS stuff. But I was giving them students who knew both, thereby slashing the costs. I told her that only two institutes in India, to the best of my knowledge, had a curriculum which was a mix of both - LNMIIT and DAIICT, and it was surprising that they were not going to either of the two institutes.
How are you so sure that your quality is better than the places we go to, she asked me, since they would rather recruit quality people and train them rather than recruit people with the right type of courses on paper, but unable to perform in jobs.
I reminded her that a year earlier, they had done off-campus open recruitment of last years' graduates. 4 of LNMIIT graduates had applied, and all 4 were selected. I asked her, if there was any other college which had a 100 percent record in that recruitment exercise. She wouldn't reply to that. I then reminded her that 3 of those 4 students actually joined, and all three of them were adjudged good performers in the company, with 2 of them even getting awards for their performance. What more could she ask for. And, of course, she could come to our campus, or send someone else, and check out for herself the quality of infrastructure and anything else she wanted to know. We are only 3.5 hours from your office by car, and we would be happy to make all the arrangements.
She didn't know how to respond to this. So she said, but we have relationships with these 20 colleges for the last 5 years. We can't keep changing this list every year. I asked, you can't even add or drop one college in a year. What kind of quality process is this. But she did promise at the end that if in future they have to drop 1 of those 20 colleges, or their recruitment needs increase to a level that they need 21st college to be added, they will certainly consider us.
If this was just one example, I would have ignored it. But this happened in company after company. The technical guys visited us, talked to our students, would offer summer internships, and propose signing of MoUs, but as soon as we talked about campus placement, that was outside the domain of technical guys. In companies, where our student doing summer internships got awards for their work in the summer, and their supervisors made a strong pitch for hiring them next year, the recruitment section wouldn't listen. If you ask the company for parameters they used to evaluate campuses - these were company secrets. Absolutely no transparency anywhere in the whole recruitment process.
So, we had no problems in finding summer internships for our students - in all the top places in India and abroad. But campus placement was a much bigger challenge. And the problem was tougher because a large number of companies did not care about the quality. But at the end, it does not matter much to the students. There is enough demand that almost all of them will get placed in some company or the other. And their quality was good enough that they will rise faster than their peers. And if we looked at our alumni who graduated 3 years ago, they were doing well. But it did matter to the incoming students and their parents that many companies did not visit the campus, and many good students would not chose LNMIIT because of this reason.
I wish Indian industry will bring transparency to its campus placement process and start valuing quality. If they don't value quality, the colleges would not deliver quality. The colleges have at least learned this much from industry. You should deliver what your customers demand. For colleges, industry is the customer.