Mumbai’s National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) is one of Government of India’s top centres of excellence along with the IITs, IIMs and the IISc, and its PG Programme in Industrial Management is a coveted option for engineers. Prof Ashok K Pundir took over the charge of NITIE’s placements in 2001, when the economy was in a slump. A turnaround has happened since then, bringing NITIE’s placements at par with that of the IIMs.

In the first part of the interview with, Prof Ashok K Pundir talks about the nuts and bolts of the placement process in NITIE and elsewhere.

What has been the trend of placements at NITIE and how has it changed over the years?

The placement trend for the management program has shifted not so much over the amount of recruiters but the job profiles being offered. Very different kinds of companies are now prominent recruiters as compared to 10 years ago.

Earlier the process industry, manufacturing, engineering, FMCG and automobile sector were more visible in the NITIE’s placements. I’m not saying that the IT and consultancy sector was weak back then, but the process and manufacturing based companies were in predominance.

Now, since the coming up of new sectors like finance and services in our economy, new phenomena have emerged and some new job profiles have come up that suit NITIE’s management graduates. As a result in 2005, we have placed 20 pc of the batch in banking/financial services sector and another 15 pc in consultancy sector. Moreover, 14 pc of the batch have profiles in the area of finance.

How has NITIE been upgrading its curriculum to keep up with the changes?

We keep updating the electives all the time. Even as late as in July, if we think a new elective needs to be introduced, we do it.

What has your personal experience been in the capacity of Associate Dean of Placements?

When I took over the position in 2001-02, the economy was down. It was a tough year for us. I remember that I personally started mailing potential companies, went out and visited them along with the students to regular recruiters as well as first timers, even the ones as far as in Delhi and Gurgaon.

The NITIE Director was very supportive of our work, and he too offered to visit companies for the cause. Despite the non-prevalence of mobile phones in those years, the entire team including the Director and I were in touch on a day-to-day basis all through. The companies on their side were pleasantly surprised of the talent pool we were providing. Since then, things have improved.

What about NITIE’s international placements?

Our regular international recruiters have been Barclays Capital and ABC Solutions in Saudi Arabia.

The major international recruiters in India are foreign banks, which mostly recruit for their investment banking divisions. They prefer graduates with a commerce background. At NITIE, we have a batch comprising entirely of engineers so they don’t fit in the investment banks.

Financial institutions that do take in NITIE graduates take them in for IT and systems based profiles.

For example Barclays Capital took eight students from a batch of 85 in 2005 for their UK office out of which six were for Systems and IT and only two were for Finance roles.

Which means that almost ten percent of the batch was taken by Barclays alone…

They made their own assessment based on their needs. They went to other institutes including the IIMs too, but preferred us in the end. You can’t really probe too deep into the needs of international recruiters, like you can be informal with Indian companies. The people from Barclays before recruiting had several interactions with our students, they mingled freely with the batch before making their decision and even threw a free chaat party.


How do corporates react to the fact that the entire NITIE batch is comprised of only engineers?

Financial and marketing companies are not as inclined toward us as they are to the IIMs and other b-schools that accept students with commerce backgrounds.

The rest of the companies react very positively to NITIE, because when it comes to profiles involving analytical skills, simulations etc, engineers are a much better choice over commerce graduates.

But do you think that analytical skill as core strength can limit NITIE students’ career growth in the future?

No. But I do feel there needs to be greater stress on soft skills. You have to make an extra effort to teach engineering graduates soft skills and some ifs and buts beyond numbers and analysis that commerce graduates are better equipped with as a result of their background.

We are making an effort toward giving NITIE students such soft skills by specially designed exercises. In fact among the first courses in the NITIE curriculum is a detailed communication skills course where students make presentations to video cameras. They are then shown their own video recordings, which helps them in judging their communication skills and improving upon them.

Will NITIE ever remove the bar on students with non-engineering background?

It is unlikely. I personally think that it will be difficult because a lot of the course will have to be changed. We take a lot of skills for granted in engineering students, such as the knowledge of computers, programming and engineering processes. If you include commerce graduates, new courses would have to be introduced and the existing ones changed by a huge margin to bring them at par with the engineers.

Which brings us to, what exactly about NITIE’s management programme makes it suitable only for engineers?

As I said, our curriculum takes a lot of skills for granted to be present in engineers. We skip teaching them several computer skills that they would have learned during their engineering. At the same time, we spend a lot of time in teaching our students certain soft skills that a commerce graduate would already know and would find a waste of time.

How do you teach engineering graduates the skill of managing uncertainty in business?

We push them through lots of case studies where we encourage them to take their time in exploring alternatives, looking into other areas and discussing them. The professors also keep learning from the process and the Management Development Programmes and share these experiences with the students.

Coming back to placements, what is the placement process followed at NITIE?

The placement process at NITIE proceeds in broadly three stages. In the first stage, the Pre-Placement Offers (PPOs) start coming in by July, after the students return from their summer training.

In the second stage, we send out invites to potential companies and the students begin their groundwork of meeting HR heads and giving them brochures.

The final stage is the placements itself, which takes place near 6-7 January. Earlier we used to follow the one-day spot offer system. But many companies had to go back empty handed in such a process so we replaced it with the multiple offer system, which resulted in 1.7 offers per student on an average in 2005.

We top up the process in between these stages with several high profile corporate visits especially during our Prerna and Lakshya events. Some of the names that have visited the campus or are slated to visit are KV Kamath of ICICI Bank, Subir Raha of ONGC, Captain Gopinath of Air Deccan and Mr Ramachandran from Philips.

When corporates come here, the media coverage brings the institute into limelight and at the same time the corporates get an opporunity to understand the institute better.


What is with the obsession that Indian b-schools – including the IIMs and NITIE – have with ‘100 percent placements’? Do you think that the pressure of an institute attaining 100 pc placements keeps students from getting their dream jobs?

You see, India is a country where jobs are few and students are many. Whereas in Europe and the Americas, one can take a fairly low-pay job and still earn enough to say, study side-by-side.

Getting a job itself is a big achievement in Indian families. There is also a lot of importance attached to a job in a ‘regular’ or a well-known company here. A student who works for a year or two before joining a b-school too does not collect enough to fund his management education. An immediate job after studying is a necessity in the current social context of India and the ‘100 percent placement’ concept is there to serve it.

Our placement process goes by the rule that everyone must first get a job and then they must get their dream job. That is where the multiple offer system of placements helps in a way. A student gives so many interviews without knowing his results in any. When the slots are opened at the end of the day, he can choose his job out of the options he has qualified for.

The best option would be a placement system that would carry on over a long time. A system where we open out the placements in September-October, goes on a continuous basis and students get their dream jobs without being under any pressure. Personally speaking, if I had an option, I’d implement such a system tomorrow itself. But for such an option to work, students have to be mentally prepared. Even in the two-day placement process, many students come under severe pressure. If the placement process is stretched over months, students would have to have a lot of psychological strength to take that kind of uncertainty.

More importantly, for such a system to be put in place, the overall psyche has to be developed. Some of the leading institutes would have to take the initiative and move forward together to bring it in.

In the present system of ‘100 percent placements’, a b-school student takes a job for granted. What according to you then keeps him motivated to excel in the two years of the course?

At the end of the day, it is only the individual performance that counts. Lots of MNCs are now coming down for campus placements and the students have to be individually very competitive to be successful. They have to use the two years to become that competitive. A NITIE or an IIM batch is a product of filtering that is carried out during the admission process, so a minimum quality is assured at these b-schools for companies. But after this stage of filtering, what matters to companies is how you have fared in the two years of the management course.

Why do 100 percent placements happen? How is it possible that all the students in a batch are competitive enough to get into some or the other company?

Companies during the placement process test a student for multiple skill areas. It is a process in which the best area of talent is identified in a student. Let me give you an example. Once, Hindustan Lever Limited was recruiting at NITIE for process and system profiles, when they came upon a student who they thought had real talent for a sales and marketing job. Now HLL has a company policy that allows only IIM students to be placed in sales-marketing profiles. But after several deliberations among themselves, with me and the student in question, they decided that he was really suited for the job and they took him aboard.

(To be continued…)

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