All information disseminated by government-owned educational institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) or the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) must be automatically trustworthy because public institutions don't need to market themselves, so goes the popular belief. It is only the private institutions that have an incentive to game their admissions, academic and placement-related statistics so that they could attract better applicants and recruiters, this belief further extends.
Although this may hold true about information on admissions, governance and academics --- all of which are administration-controlled in government business schools --- placements are almost always an entirely student-run activity, the data about which does not even fall within the purview of the Right to Information Act. The titular placement chairperson in a government b-school rarely takes any real interest in the recruitment activities on campus or in the veracity of information in placement reports, existing as he does in that position largely to exchange pleasantries and have a samosa with the recruiters during the campus-hiring season.
Using this cover of government-ownership, and in the absence of adult supervision, student-run placement committees of most government b-schools --- who author the placement reports --- try to suggest that there are procedures and rules that are incumbent on them, and hence their placement reports could not contain any misleading data.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. As Prof Saral Mukherjee, the former placement chairperson at the IIM Ahmedabad has pointed out in an essay published in Nurturing Institutional Excellence (Macmillan India, 2011), student-run placement committees tend to be more loyal to their batches than to their institutes. If the tough road to garnering the best jobs for their batch involves setting precedents of truth-twisting and unethical behaviour that get institutionalised in the school's culture, they couldn't care less.
We had always been told stories in retrospect by our friends from top Indian b-schools about the levels of placement data-fudging they had witnessed at their alma maters. But for the first time, PaGaLGuY has been able to gain access to the actual employment statistics of a prominent government b-school and unearth serious discrepancies amounting to downright fabrication in the claims of its official placement report for the batch of 2012.
The Department of Management Studies (DMS), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi released its placement report for the 97-student-strong MBA batch of 2012 in March this year, which it had uploaded on its website dmsiitd.org and removed a day ago ( you can view a copy of it hosted on PaGaLGuY here ).
The placement report, which was for DMS' largest batch yet (the 2011 batch had 52 graduates) claimed the following,
Average domestic salary: Rs 13.64 lakh
Highest domestic salary: Rs 19 lakh
International placements: 6
Highest Finance salary: Rs 19 lakh
Highest Marketing salary: Rs 16 lakh
Highest Consulting salary: Rs 15 lakh
Highest IT salary: Rs 18 lakh
This is the same report which would have been one of the influencing factors in the decision of the incoming class of MBA 2014 at DMS to go ahead and join the school.
Immediately after the report was released, we at PaGaLGuY managed to get hold of the offer and the broad salary range details (as they were at the time of releasing the placement report) for each and every student (except two) in the DMS MBA 2012 batch through credible sources both inside IIT Delhi as well as inside the companies which recruited from DMS this year.
Without revealing the names of the students and their individual salary and job details, we illustrate the actual company, offer, profile and salary distribution of the DMS MBA 2012 batch at the time of releasing of the above-linked placement report in this table,
We were able to confirm the above offers and salary ranges using our vast network of sources and PaGaLGuY alumni in most of these companies, besides having access to emails sent by the DMS placement committee to their batch. Against this information, each of the above-mentioned claims stands questionable,
Claimed: Average domestic salary: Rs 13.64 lakh
Actual: The actual average salary is in the range of Rs 8 to 10 lakh. As you can see above, only a total of five students secured jobs with a salary higher than Rs 13.64 lakh, so there is no way the school could have achieved the claimed average salary. Even if one assumed that the two unaccounted for students and the third student with the MuSigma offer (whose salary range we were not able to access) together stretched the salary to the claimed Rs 13.64 lakh, they would each have to earn on an average Rs 1.14 crore in order for the placement report's claim to be valid. In which case, the highest salary at DMS, IIT Delhi this year would be above a crore rupees, which is not the case. The possibility of DMS having included rejected offers to calculate the average seems implausible, unless the batch in question was nursing a mass fetish for rejecting higher-paying offers.
Claimed: Highest domestic salary: Rs 19 lakh
Actual: More like Rs 17 lakh, offered by P&G;
Claimed: International placements: 6
Actual: Only one, by Mitsui
Claimed: Highest Finance salary: Rs 19 lakh
Actual: Rs 13 lakh if you stretched your imagination to consider the operations role offered by Citibank, or the Rs 14 lakh analytics role offered by American Express as Finance roles.
Claimed: Highest Marketing salary: Rs 16 lakh
Actual: Rs 13.5 lakh by Tata Motors
Claimed: Highest Consulting salary: Rs 15 lakh
Actual: Rs 14 lakh, if you considered the McKinsey Knowledge Center job as a consulting role.
Claimed: Highest IT salary: Rs 18 lakh
Actual: Rs 13 lakh for one student in the GE Information Management Leadership Program (IMLP).
Furthermore, the report claims that each of Nomura, Synergy Consulting, Microsoft, Continental Tyres, Reckitt Benckiser and Deutsche Bank made offers to the batch. However, we have information verified from multiple and credible sources inside IIT Delhi that none of these companies made a single final offer at DMS, IIT Delhi this year. What's more, Deutsche Bank, which did not even lurk at the DMS placements this year --- forget about shortlisting and interviewing --- is a complete figment of the placement committee's imagination, a downright fabrication. A quick analysis of the companies and sectors throws the sector-wise placement breakup in their 2012 placement report completely off. One look at the above table would tell you that majority of the batch has really got placed in the IT and IT services sector/roles.
PaGaLGuY's questions to the media interfaces of each of the above companies enquiring about their recruiting at DMS, IIT Delhi were either not responded to or were declined a response citing reasons of confidentiality. However, we were able to get off-the-record confirmations from our sources inside Deutsche Bank and Nomura that neither of these two companies made final offers at DMS this year.
In June, we sent a questionnaire to the DMS placement committee seeking their comments and confirmations or denials about the findings of our investigations, while promising that any names of students that they might provide in the employment data will not be revealed to the public. Although the committee did reply to our questions, they wanted that not just the student names, but their entire responses remain confidential. These answers only widened the chasm between the truth and the lies or what is ethical and what is willfully misleading. Since we are not obliged to adhere to their confidentiality request, I am summarising them below without revealing any student identities.
For example, the highest marketing salary was attributed to a student who had joined his own family business outside the placement process --- an outrightly dishonest manipulation. The unrealistically high average salary of Rs 13.64 lakh was justified using rejected offers and negotiated compensations at the time of the interviews. If one were to examine some of these claims by looking at the LinkedIn or Facebook public profiles of the students, it would mean that nearly half the DMS, IIT Delhi batch rejected very high-paying and international jobs for analytics or IT roles in IT or finance companies.
The highest domestic salary of Rs 19 lakh was attributed to a Nomura pre-placement offer. However, a look at the LinkedIn profile of the only DMS student who had interned with Nomura last year shows that he is currently working with KPMG and for a salary of about Rs 8.3 lakh. Not only is this preposterous, it violates DMS' own placement policy (which is in our possession) which prohibits students with offers of more than Rs 9 lakh from interviewing for companies that offer less than Rs 13.5 lakh in the final process.
Refusing to go on record with their responses for this story as any transparent placement or media committee of a b-school should, Shubham Maheshwari, the placement committee coordinator of DMS, IIT Delhi cited confidentiality reasons and instead asked us to get them by filing an RTI application. Although we consider this diversionary and a completely out-of-protocol treatment of a media query routed through proper channels (which by the way DMS has in the past has always replied to promptly, without bringing up confidentiality and without asking us to file an RTI application), we are still filing an RTI application with DMS, IIT Delhi with these questions and will publish another story with the school's responses in about a month's time, after we get the reply.
And interestingly, within a day after we had this conversation with Maheshwari, the placement report had been removed from the dmsiitd.org website.
With over seven years of experience in reporting placements of top schools, we have come to realise that most b-schools do inflate their average salary figures artificially by a lakh rupees or so in order to appear better than or at least in the same league as their competitors. However, the magnitude of average salary inflation in DMS, IIT Delhi's case this year is in the range of Rs 3 to 4 lakh, a whopping 40% above the actual average of Rs 8 to 10 lakh.
Despite repeated attempts by PaGaLGuY to contact DMS, IIT Delhi's placement chairperson Dr Harish Chaudhary was unavailable for comment.
So what drives schools such as DMS, IIT Delhi to misrepresent placement data to such extent?
1. Placement report fudging is primarily done for two reasons by b-schools. First, it helps the next year's batch bargain for better salaries with recruiters when they begin pitching to them for placements. Second, it helps the batch attract higher-quality applicants to the school.
2. DMS nearly doubled its batch strength between the classes of 2011 and 2012. That increased the effort expected of the placement committee many times over. In such a transition period, a good-looking placement report helps, because it creates the image of being a higher-value b-school among companies than it actually is. It doesnt help that a school such as DMS, IIT Delhi does not have a very large alumni presence in the human resource departments of the industry batting for it as compared to competing b-schools which have been graduating larger batches and since many years before DMS.
3. As in most government b-schools, the placement chairperson is a titular figure who likes to keep his engagement with the process to the minimum. Behind his back, students do just what any bunch of youngsters without adult supervision would --- act for the short-term benefit, in the process setting precedents of unethical behaviour that future batches find hard to quit.
But interestingly, do observe the job profiles offered to the DMS, IIT Delhi batch of 2012 in the table above. As many as 16 students have joined Infosys in IT roles for CTC salaries lower than Rs 9 lakh. Considering that IIT b-schools admit only engineers, would these students have managed these roles as Infosys employees even without their MBAs?
It is worthwhile to note the number of analytics profiles on offer as well. Since analytics mostly requires some background in statistics and familiarity with statistical tools and possibly some programming skills, the utility of a two-year full-time MBA to land up with these jobs becomes questionable. This is especially true considering that many software engineers move into analytics without the need for a higher degree anyway.
In stark contrast to the plethora of analytics/IT profiles are the kind of profiles that would typically be classified as post-MBA profiles roles in marketing, finance, human resources and strategy. Less than 15% of the batch seems to have been offered such roles, with finance jobs being virtually non-existent, or restricted to backend non-finance roles like those in American Express/Citibank/SCOPE International, or the odd public sector bank here and there.
We would like to stress here that singling out the lackluster profiles at DMS, IIT Delhi defeats the purpose. If, as MBA aspirants, you were to be more diligent about researching the profiles offered in other comparable b-schools rather than obsessing over just the salaries, you might begin questioning the value of an MBA at these schools in the first place. But considering the infatuation with salaries prevalent among MBA aspirants, no wonder b-school placement committees are tempted to release fictitious placement reports.
The claim that a government b-school has to follow procedures while reporting placements so it cannot be lying is utter poppycock. Placement committees are student-run fiefdoms where the 'procedures' are defined by a bunch of overenthusuastic 23-year-olds with little real-world experience of running a values-driven franchise. Do not believe such claims, unless the school shows proof of having externally audited their placement reports.
We also urge MBA aspirants to question b-schools in their routine enquiries as to why they do not follow a reporting standard such as the Indian Placement Reporting Standard or at the least, why the reports are not externally audited. This will not only make b-schools get these audits as a norm, your own all-too-important decision of joining a b-school will rest on the premise of information that is as solid as the education that you deserve for yourself.