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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Does Indian Industry value merit

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.


Anshu Gupta said...

This is a bit schoking that in an enviornment of fierce corporate competetion how a company can afford to have such a lackadaisical attitude towards the people they hier, at the end of the day efficient people means more profit. I do agree with you that with time one sees people from LNMIIT performing better than their peers. Having said that I also think that some industries like RF, which need people with strong mathematical / field calculation foundations are running short of qualified engineers. With the advent of simulation tools one hardly finds graduates who can solve even basic field problem with pen and paper. Hence with lack of understanding of basic physics one finds less of genuinely good ideas in th field.

Arjun said...

Well said sir ! Corruption is every where in India . HRs do not need quality they need money.
Two days ago i was talking to my friend from jaypee noida he told me that TCS recruit almost 90% students from their batch & the criterion is just their pointer . If they have pointer above than 5.5 they are selected . This is what those HR want .They dont want quality they want money & the story is same with many other institutes like Amity.
Any institute which can feed corrupt HRs can show 150% placement.

kshitij said...

Rightly said sir. Even at IITs the location factor and the "Not to change" attitude from HR is hampering the placement scenario. They won't come to Kanpur just because a day or two will be wasted, while at Delhi or Bombay they would do it in few hours. Even alums of the IIT Kanpur do recruit just from Delhi or Bombay, citing the transportation and time as the main reasons to opt out for. Hope things change in future and HR starts recruiting talent and grown up from their past relations and locations issues.

Hemant said...

Agree to you sir, that they will realize it after 5 years rather than now!! But its quite surprising that the way HR community has set their standards for hiring, and clearly their lack of coordination with technical experts for understanding the quality needed for growth of their organization.

Piyush said...

Talent and hard-work will always be awarded - sooner or later... Companies are doing more harm to themselves by losing on the best of talent

Bharat Singhvi said...

Helps to know that its the industry which has a rather skewed sense of resource exploitation.

Uday_Achillies said...

Yes , I do agree with you sir that with time one sees people from LNMIIT performing better than their peers.

And it has already begun as it can be clear seen from off-campus placements of Y06 batch at bangalore. I feel proud to say that many of my friends are hired into very good companies and at very good pay scale (>4.0 lpa) for a fresher. This is just the beginning , the brand and Legacy of LNMIIT is yet to be created

kumar_harsh said...

Its really heartbreaking to see so much apathy by the companies... Their attitude reminds one of the Government 'babus' in the country.
Truly said by Arjun sir, HRs need only money. They dont care about which direction their own company is headed...

Pankaj Agarwal said...

I think it clearly says technical people are not the only the ones we should deal with, we should also approach people in the decision making process. For it, we have to attract some research projects to our campus from well known companies with the help of our college faculties, board of management and technical people sitting in the industries.

paresh said...

The issue is more complex than mere lack of appreciation of quality.
1. The HR Managers have different objectives - at least different short term objectives. Typically they are given hiring objectives and in large companies, the predominant ones are for numbers. They find it easy to do in tried and tested waters.
2. Getting companies to visit campus is a professional sales work and this requires long term effort. To be clear, we are not talking here of unhealthy practices being carried out by some institutes in collusion with some people in country. We are talking of ethical hard core work to convince a management of a company to visit your campus and then work at all levels required to make it actually happen.
3. This is no different than getting an order from similar companies for some commercial products or projects. In such cases too, a hard effort has to be made to first convince the actual users or beneficiaries within the company and then work with them to get the requirements defined and then work with the purchase department to get the actual inquiry, bid and win the bid.
4. In the case mentioned, a gentle suggestion: the Institute leader should not have simply accepted the HR Manager's opposition. He could have called back the management at higher levels and talked to them about this and tried to get their support to tide over the opposition from HR (which is trying to take easy route). This is of course difficult to do as Institute leaders do not have such time to make such long duration efforts.
5. An simpler way is also to push for internships which then allow the companies to understand what the students can deliver. The operating managers in many companies have greater freedom in offering internships and this can be used in positive manner.

To sum up, in the age where number of institutes are becoming larger, it will require professional marketing efforts to get employment opportunities. It is very essential that good institutes mount vigorous efforts so that their students get opportunity and this will also help counter the unhealthy practices spread by some.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Paresh, you put 100% of the onus on colleges. I disagree. If a company is looking for poor quality engineers, and there are 1000s of colleges seeking attention of industry for hiring their poor-quality engineers, then you are right that it has to be a sales job by these poor quality academic institutions. But if a company is looking for quality engineers and there aren't enough of them, then it becomes a joint responsibility. For the institute to tell HR guys about itself, and the HR guys to listen to at least someone.

My experience is (and this is what I did not write in the original blog, but many HR guys will informally agree to this) that industry is actually looking for poor quality engineers. It is a fashion to talk about dearth of talent. They are not looking for talent to begin with, not at the entry level. They do look for talent at the senior levels, and senior levels are the ones who are really running the show. At the entry level, they only want to reduce the cost.

In fact, one HR person explained to me that if we recruit better quality people, then they will have difficulty in designing training for such people. You can't have individualized training at the induction time.

And, please don't assume that I did not put in enough time on this. I traveled to so many cities and met so many people in so many companies, it was not funny.

And, if you read the blog carefully, I have also mentioned that we encouraged internships. But even those students who were awarded by companies during the internship for their performance, the HR guys would not look at them next year in the same company.

And I am asking for only one simple thing. Transparency in HR policies. Can industry put out information on their criteria for selecting colleges. Considering that they have huge public impact, I think they should be transparent about this information. Till they are transparent, there is no argument.

Akshay Jha said...

Really excellent article and eye opener how industry hires people. Hope rationality prevails in these organisations sooner than later.

Akshay jha

Anandh Sundar said...

Really touching article and really valid for Bschools also. Being an IIMA student, I'm fortunate enough to escape this, but many of my friends at Tier II Bschools do not even get a chance to showcase their talent to recruiters, who play safe. Just like nobody got fired for using IBM, no HR person would get chided for going only to 'top' Bschools.

One way out of this morass may be to adopt the Western system of assessment centres-much easier for engineering than for management-where the scores are valid for say 1 yr. It would go beyond GATE and test even aptitude etc. This kind of test is happening for bank recruitment, and can be applied to industry also.

Sunita Bhat said...


I totally agree that new gen HR WORK. I handled the operations of a small company around 100 people and being from technical background then shifted to management. So my job was to see overall suitability of the candidate from recruitment till allocating to project. Hr people were concerned till only recruitement because they have nobody to present numbers to management.But nobody gives chance to candidate like me in big company to handle these things. They have their norms to have people from premier institutes like iim or xlri. This is irony. Young Hr people never let a senior person like me to intervene. Now at one stage people like me though being technical can not contribute much in technical things than in the matters of Hr because we understand people and technology and that is where our experience counts. But there is nobody to listen. When I apply for such positions in big/medium companies ,i never got a call for this profile. They have their own selection criteria for these jobs. Anyway this is the way things happen. I hope someday somebody will listen .

Sunita Bhat ( BE ELECTRONICS FROM NIT Srinagar 1985.