Flipkart-IIT-IIM row is pathetic on so many counts!

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I had difficulty in putting down a coherent response to the controversy. Because it reveals so much that is pathetic and wrong with our systems, with our people, with our mentality, that even writing them down makes me feel enervated. But here is an attempt anyway.

  • We are talking about (supposedly) some of the best educational institutes of the country, right? (If they aren’t the best, what would all the swagger be about?) Why can’t they produce students who are confident of their competence and ability to provide value, and hence finding a good job? Why are these students okay with being portrayed as a bunch of miserable, starving victims whose last morsel has been snatched away from them? Flipkart was a day zero or day one company at most of these places, right? So these students are supposedly best of even the best, crème de la crème. Are they going to go crying to Mommy every time they face a problem in their careers? Are our best institutions so proud of producing such self-entitled wimps?
  • When they get those ridiculously high salaries, it is all good because — market forces, right? The world must accept that. That world, then, is not obliged to shield them when market forces start working against them. Get it? Market forces?
  • The entire placement system itself is so reflective of the greed and the herd mentality – the slots based on salary numbers quoted, the manipulations to ensure “good placement records”, and then this brouhaha that the compensation of 1.5 lacs is not enough. Go get another job, for God’s sake, if you need money, instead of twiddling your thumbs for next six months. What more? So many of you would have changed your jobs within six months of joining anyway. Your placement committees would not have compensated companies for their loss in that case.
  • IIMs don’t even realize the irony of crying foul, do they? Don’t they prepare their students for an “ever-changing”, “increasingly fast-paced”, “risky” world of business? Aren’t they supposed to train for dealing with ups and downs, including and especially the external factors? When they chose to make Flipkart a day zero or day one company, did they not know that they were adopting a high-risk, high-reward strategy? That Flipkart was not a profitable company despite its size and salary numbers? That it was dependent on VC money and that it could dry out? If I were an alternative employer, I would still hire the “stranded” IIT graduates if they can code. I would definitely not hire these management graduates who didn’t understand what they were doing in picking up  Flipkart in the first place.
  • And now the childish response of “banning” companies. Welcome to History. A year later, when the same or similar companies dangle the carrots of high salary numbers, you will go crawling back to them, even proudly featuring the number of students they picked up in your next year’s placement brochure. Or wait! The students will apply to them anyhow even if you don’t allow them back through the formal channel. If they want they will bypass the campus placements and the placement in-charges will cry foul yet again. So, how about some calm career counselling for your students, ridding them of their sense of entitlement, and instilling the need to do something useful, instead of this playing-the-victim game.
  • I have long maintained and continue to maintain that educational institutes should stop behaving like placement agencies. They should get out of the business of getting jobs for their students. Instead, they should focus on educating students well so that they don’t need such crutches. Have job fairs by all means. Let there be a platform for companies and students to interact. Arrange for counselling and advice. But let the transaction that is a job offer be a business between the individual student and the employer. Stop creating those week-long concentration camps that are known as “placement days” or some equivalent of it. I don’t expect institutes lower down in the reputation hierarchy to do this first. Will the best ones take a lead?
This entry was posted in Business & Entrepreneurship, Thoughts and tagged , , , by Jaya. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

22 thoughts on “Flipkart-IIT-IIM row is pathetic on so many counts!

  1. Perfectly biased version in favour of flipkart or against IIM students (this I think is more better). Only thing I could see was the rant against the IIM student getting higher salary, crying etc.
    Please have an open mind and look at both sides and speak on the matter at hand .
    FYI.. while students at the college know it’s a startup they had faith in flipkart and I do not think they actually considered it so
    If the company did not have a requirement they should not have hired, its a basic bad management decision
    If you have the insight to look at the larger picture what this has done is dissuade again all those students who were willing to work in Indian companies/startups rather than going to MNC
    We as a country talk about brain drain and criticize the people who do it, but then support the company that does something like this which encourages it.

  2. @Shakir – I think, she is not taking away the fact that flipkart didn’t plan well. She is just saying that people passed out from these institutions shouldn’t be at the mercy of companies. They should be capable enough to carve their own path. They are capable, its just a matter of mindset change.

  3. First you should know that on first day the companies that comes is not based on just salary. That is more inclined towards the reputation of company also. There are lots of company which comes on first day and does not gives handsome salary. And there are also some which comes on latter days but gives higher salaries. So don’t say that the placement system of this premier colleges is full of greed.

  4. You want to sound like you know a lot, but unfortunately knowing one side of the coin and pretending to be an expert about both is all that you could come up with.. It’s pathetic, and sad. I wish you well though. Read up a little bit more.

  5. Perfect response Jaya, almost resonates my view on the issue. Looking at some of the comments below, don’t think they realize this is coming from the crème de la crème herself.

  6. Looks like you haven’t even gotten the slightest clue of what actually happened in the entire process.

    It’s not a point of the students crying over the issue, rather, Flipkart doesn’t even have the decency to inform students that the offer has been delayed. If this was done earlier, students could easily look for something else. IIT’s follow a one student one company policy to make it fair for all stakeholders involved.

    For your information, Placement slots are not decided by amounts only. Yes it is a factor but the students are asked for companies which they want to work for. There are many companies in the process who have been upgraded to earlier slots. If these were arranged according to offer, they’d be much later. So before doling out accusations, do some research.

    Also, if the students want to apply off campus, it’s their wish. The students are generally encouraged to do it as well, as it means that others who don’t have the means to apply can be better served by the placement office. Bans, once in place are enforced and it has always been. Calling it childish shows your lack of understanding of the problem itself.

    So your solution to all of this is to let students and companies freely engage with each other. Sure, that’s going to work for 1500 students meeting 300 companies. So why stop there, why don’t we individually send all our governmental complaints to the President directly? There are representatives (elected by the students itself) so that this process is made faster and easier for the students and the companies.

    I’m sorry for being harsh, but when you criticize a system which has benefited so many students get their life in order you need to back it up with meaningful arguments, which this commentary severely lacks.

    • Your logical arguments will fall against deaf ears sir. This whole controversy has bought out some people who are otherwise hate IIT IIM folks. They are now disguising themselves under “market forces” experts, not realizing how ironic their rant it.

  7. For those guys commenting that Jaya has no clue about the placement process at these premier institutes, kindly note that she was among the toppers of batch of 2006 at IIM Lucknow and CHOSE to not sit in placements. Just a little more background for the brickbats.

  8. I agree with the author – she is going beyond the particulars of this case. The winners in any case will always be those who are paying, viz. the industry.

  9. Even IIMs are doing it under those sacred “market forces”, right? So why rant against them? Or is it rant against IIMs in general? Feel free to join the IIT IIM haters bandwagon.

  10. Companies want to hire top talent. They promise bschools that they are a large well funded professional company that will make hire a lot of folks reliably. In return campuses offer early slots (called day 1) to those companies that can reliably fulfill their promise of (i) hiring a lot of people (ii) at market competitive salaries (iii) with reasonable assurance of fulfilling their promises. These early slots ensure that the company has access to the entire talent pool/top talent pool. Bschools also ensure that a student who accepts an offer at the company cannot participate in any further interviews.

    I really dont see what the hullabaloo is. This is a clear transactional deal between (A) Company and (B) BSchool. If the company fails to uphold their end of the transaction, it is within the right of the aggrieved party (Bschool) to impose penalties at their disposal. The long term penalties at their disposal are refusal of access to Day1 slots in the future. The short term penalty that they are trying to impose is force FK to pay a higher salary/joining bonus in lieu of the delay/breakage of contractual terms. Please help me understand if the Bschool did anything beyond this? Did they ask people to cause physical harm to FK? This happens in business all the time, businesses promise each other things and then dont follow through on it. More often than not, this is not because of ill intentions when they signed the deal but because of market intentions. At this point, companies resort to leverage at their disposal to move things in their favor (often legal recourse as well).

    Why is everyone getting so bent out of shape for 2 business entities sorting in a reasonable manner? Why do we feel what IIMA is doing is unreasonable? Why do we feel Flipkart deserves sympathy because of ‘market forces’? If you ask me, this interaction that we see between these 2 parties IS the market forces that you talk of. Not getting top talent in the long run because you made a conscious choice to defer joining dates is market forces at play.

    And finally, coming to the students….I agree that Bschools should stop acting like placement agencies, unfortunately, that is not true and it works against students as well. Bschool students who take up a job on day 1 are forced to NOT participate in the hiring process. i.e. they cannot apply for another job once they have accepted a role. (a free market would allow you to attend multiple interviews and choose roles that you want). In addition, also consider that student loan paybacks start kicking in soon after you pass out of bschool with the assumption that you start getting paid. So, I hope you can empathize with the fact that suddenly being asked to join 6 months later adds financial turmmoil in the lives of these students. It also adds a lot of insecurity whether the company will delay joining by another 3-6 months (its happened before and a reasonable fear). The students applying pressure on their school IS the market forces that you talk of. The only side that you see is the bschool and students making noise getting Flipkart to do right by what they promised. What is happening behind the scenes is probably exactly what you want these students to do…adapt to the market. Some of them are already interviewing elsewhere, some of them are already placed elsewhere, some of them are doing courses to better prepare joining in Dec, some of them are extending their exchange programs etc. In addition to all that, many of them are also fighting the battle with Flipkart via their bschool and trying to hold FK accountable. If FK forecasted poorly, then FK has to bare the consequences of their actions.

    All of this is market forces in play…just like FK or IIM, we can go ahead and voice our concerns. As long as we dont physically or mentally bully someone, let the market forces continue to play out exactly the way it is currently…

  11. What can they even do about it? The employer can’t pay! Will they work for free / cheap? But yes. They are hoping they can change the situation by acting like wimps. In good times, half of them wouldn’t even join! In bad times, they want affirmative action (ie employer reserving irrevocable offers for them no matters what happens to the rest of the world or the company)

  12. To be honest, this sounds more like venting your feelings at the IIT-IIM folks who are waiting to get a piece of the corporate cake! With all due respect, given that you are from IIML yourself, I was hoping for a more unbiased story.

    I graduated from IIMA 2 years back myself and can vouch for the process over there.

    * Firstly, you made your point on students from premiere institutes not having the wisdom to choose the “right” companies. I would argue against that saying Flipkart didn’t have the wisdom to choose the right moment to recruit. If you knew before hand that you cannot the absorb the recruits on the committed date, why recruit at all!? (especially when you know you have to pay such hefty salaries…market forces..right?). Students place a lot of faith in the Placement committee of the institute and this action betrays the PC.

    * I’m not even getting into arguing about the myth that high paying companies = day zero or day one slots. Clearly, you ve got your facts wrong here (maybe it was that way at IIML). There is a whole DueD that goes into slotting the companies it the most socialistic manner possible.
    And since you seem to have no clue about the placement process, here’s another trivia for you – As a student, if you join a company and leave within 6 months, you have pay back the placement committee and the company an amount. So the PC “does” compensate the companies for their losses if students choose to “leave” prematurely

    * According to you logic, students should never pick any company that is going in losses. Well my scholar, by that logic, no students should ever join a start up! Most start ups dont make any profits in the first 3 years (exceptions aside). Students join companies because of the brand value and the people they get to work with. Not just the money making potential.

    * IIMs (atleast IIMA) are not job fairs. I beg to disagree if you have a different opinion on this. IIMA has facilitated multiple avenues for graduating batches to pursue entrepreneurship including placement holidays, seed money,etc. Students are encouraged to add value in so many other ways apart from just getting placed.

    I know my comments might be a little biased. But to be frank, this whole issue of delaying joining has been going on for quite some time. It has nothing to do with IITs or IIMs. Lots of other students suffer too. And it was time someone stood up to it. And I’m glad some institutes took the lead.

    • @Varun
      I definitely find a lot of merit in your argument, however it is this “is that how it works in IIM L, I’m from IIM A, we are different here” attitude that has made people join the IIT IIM haters bandwagon.

      Moreover, being from an IIM myself, I know how much of deception happens to get companies into believing that they’re in day zero or day one etc.; just that we can’t cry foul if they play foul. For thousands of engineers, companies haven’t honoured their offers for some time now. No one bothered to say anything, just that if it happens to be a premier institute, the media and society brings in an exceptional utopian moral righteousness as to why Flipkart was evil in not paying compensation.

      As it is quite evident, Flipkart will suffer because of the loss the brand has had in this evident. In my opinion, that is the natural reaction from “market forces”.

  13. Perfectly put – there is a deep sense of entitlement at the elite institutions (I should know, I was in one them!). I remember once talking to a newly-enrolled student who was angry that the IIT does not give them free bicycles for use in the campus! And the frenzy that is the placement season is beyond words. Even back when I was in that situation, I felt that my peers were mostly a bunch of wimpy kids who couldn’t manage challenges. Sadly, that is what education has been reduced to – a ticket to a higher salary, but nothing else.

  14. pure BS…..firstly the author does not seem to understand the concept of campus placements…….no-one here is entitling the students to anything……companies come to these campuses, purely because they get to hire the talent they need in a cost-effective way….not sure how many of you have run companies before….but do you even know the cost of hiring people with the same skill sets outside campus….you will be surprised with the difference….also in this case students are not suing Flipkart or anything…..the institute is just acting in the best interest of its students…who trusted the placement system…..a company walked into an institute saying they will honor their offers…..now they are reneging on it….so it is obvious the institute will take action and either ask Flipkart to compensate for the opportunity cost lost or let them know they are not welcome next time….which part of this is entitling the students to something they do not deserve is something I fail to understand…..think you need to lift your veil of the IIT-IIM hatred and see things objectively

  15. Dear Ms. Jaya ,

    I appreciate your effort, style of writing and of course the pain of writing this column. I read the whole article and also tried to go through the replies but it’s disheartening that you never replied/commented on any of the replies to keep your stand or clarify the doubts of readers. I hope you would take some bit of more pain and do reply to my opinion.
    Cutting it short, I have just a few questions which I feel you should ponder upon and answer if you deem it acceptable:

    1. The whole episode gives a feeling of low primary/secondary research as the biases can be seen in favour of one while against a few parties in the episode. I hope you would have told the other part of the story as well. You are saying people are crying unfair and asking some unfavourable demands, but the question is not only of being prepared for unforeseen circumstances. The bigger question is of standards. Flipkart failed to keep its promise and also failed to inform in due course of time. You are saying for high paying salaries and a compensation of 1.5 lakh. Just compare the figure with the loan that these students have taken and since you are a PGDM from IIM L, do consider the interest part also. Any sensible person would raise a question if s/he is betrayed/cheated when promised of something. It’s not about entitlement but of rights and morals.
    2. You talk of “Job fairs”. We all talk of problems and fancy solutions like this. But, please do suggest the methods. I know job fairs are common in european and US universities but in Indian context is it feasible? Is the tradition of placement can be replaced so easily ??? The institutes are trying to cultivate a tradition of entrepreneurship and I guess they are doing good progress in that sense.
    3. It’s just a suggestion, do go and pay a visit to your almamater as Placement process is I guess changed and flipkart is neither day 1 company and nor all students go only for high paying jobs, many do join entrepreneurship, social service and other jobs of their liking.

  16. There is a key take away for startups. They should not just run behind talent which they don’t even know is worth the amount they are paying. Startups need to open channel for other right candidates who are not in these premier institutions. Many startups have high burn in salaries just because their blind chase for brand name.

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