Last year, about three dozen b-schools had met at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad campus to etch out the Indian Placement Reporting Standards (IPRS), intended to be an honest and auditable way for b-schools to report their placements to future applicants and the media. A year later, it is worth looking at its adoption across India's MBA institutes. Against the 33 b-schools that were participated in setting the standard, the 25 that eventually became signatories to it and the estimate of 150-160 that IIM Ahmedabad's director had hoped for, only five have released actual placement reports adhering to the IPRS.
PaGaLGuY spoke to several b-schools to understand why they had been keeping their hands off the IPRS.
Some might deem the IPRS' data intensivity on salary and offers as breaking new ground in transparency, but for a few b-schools, the over-emphasis on salary numbers is not necessarily a good thing. A member from the placement team of Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi University told PaGaLGuY, "Salaries should be seen just an indicator while choosing a b-school and not as the be-all and end-all of it. Top institutes across the country hover around similar salary numbers. Moreover, these numbers do not take into account the intangible benefits that a job might offer. For example, the learning that you take away from a job cannot be measured in terms of the numbers alone."
The FMS placement report however reports the average domestic salary in cost-to-company (CTC) terms and its percentage increase over the previous year, which is precisely the kink IPRS aims to throw out, since CTC salaries combine several tangible and intangible fixed and variable components, and are not representative of what a graduate might actually earn on the job. When asked about it, FMS agreed that CTC was not an accurate representation of salaries at all, and was contemplating scrapping it in the future altogether. IIM Lucknow on the other hand stuck to the stand that they never provided salary numbers in their placement report anyway. "We have always focussed more on the roles offered than the salary numbers," said the placement team from IIM Lucknow.
For a few other schools, the extra effort required towards collecting huge amounts of data was putting off. Rakesh Saxena, placement coordinator, Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand told PaGaLGuY that adopting the IPRS format was a complicated task to execute at the institute level and they would rather stick to their own format. In fact, IIM Shillong and TA Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, which had signed up for the IPRS last year but not released an IPRS placement report yet, cited this as one of the reasons for the delay. They told PaGaLGuY that data collection was a tedious effort which took a lot of time and other means of representing data needed to be adopted to make the process simpler." H S Srivastava, chairman of placements at TAPMI said, "Some companies give offer letters to students directly and it is a difficult job to procure them from these students. Also, it is difficult to contact outstation students once they graduate as they often change their contact details after leaving the institute." Merlvin Mukhim, placement coordinator, IIM Shillong said, "The most difficult part of the exercise was to get a break-up of the salary as most companies were not willing to provide the data. Also, the volume of data collected under the IPRS has caused the delay in releasing the report."
Lack of industry support however appears to be the biggest hurdle stopping IPRS adoption, because companies need to be comfortable with their compensation data being used in the IPRS process. V K Menon, senior director, career advancement services, admissions and financial aid at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad said, "Many companies abroad have confidentiality clauses which do not allow them to disclose the break-up of salaries. Since our students are experienced and hiring happens for senior-level management positions, companies are even more averse to disclosing information. To ensure that the average CTC for the batch is fairly reported, we take into account the CTCs earned by the middle 80% by salary of our placed students while calculating the average."
When asked why ISB had not externally audited its placement report, he said, "We have not given it too much thought. We have only done so much." The placement team from Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), Ahmedabad told PaGaLGuY that it was too early to abide by the IPRS as its acceptance across the industry was not well established and thus served no real purpose.
IPRS signatory institutes are also having a tough time on this front. Mr Mukhim from IIM Shillong explained, "We have not been able to sensitise the corporates to the cause. Also, the newer IIMs and smaller institutes have very less bargaining power with the companies. Since we have to place our students, we need to adopt a tactical approach and cannot push the companies too much." Mr. Srivastava from TAPMI added, "In many cases, the HR policies do not allow companies to share the information with us. The companies feel that they will lose out on their competitive edge if the salary numbers are disclosed."
Many b-schools are adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approach before taking a final call on IPRS. Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), Delhi told PaGaLGuY that they were gauging whether they could have all the arrangements in place and will take a final call on adopting the standard soon. The placement team from Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSoM), IIT Kharagpur, said, "Since the IPRS has not got a wide acceptance yet, we are not willing to come on board just yet. Other b-schools also need to accept it before we can take a decision on it."
IIM Kozhikode is in favour of the IPRS but wants to wait for some more time before becoming a member. Others like Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune, Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), Mumbai, National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai claimed to be in the discussion stage and had not taken a stand on the matter.
In what seems like a paradox, a few lesser known private b-schools were more willing to come on board the IPRS bandwagon. If you take a look at the members abiding by the IPRS, the bulk of them comprise what is known as tier-II and tier-III b-schools. So, why adopt the IPRS when their placement salary numbers are modest compared to the top b-schools?
One such b-school is Sahyadri Institute of Management Studies, Pune which is one of the five b-schools to have released its audited placement report under the IPRS. A member of the placement team offers an explanation, "Being associated with IIM Ahmedabad and IPRS, smaller and newer institutes like ours can learn a lot of best practices. Also, we want to go public with the true placement data and have no problems being honest about it."
Although, Santosh Mathews from the placement team of MITCON Institute of Management, Pune had a different take on it. Calling it an admission gimmick, he said, "For some of the smaller b-schools, it is a question of survival. It is better to show some placement than no placement at all. The quality of students is not very good in such institutes and being associated with an IIM helps draw students to their fold." But Gopinath M, placement coordinator, Farook Institute of Management Studies, Calicut believed that it was a step in the right direction for these institutes and will yield dividends in the long run. "Apart from the obvious element of transparency, it will give greater visibility to the b-schools. Also, this will help us to interact and network with bigger b-schools which can lead to other initiatives such as seminars and workshops conducted by faculty from these schools for our students," he said.