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Make your own road

What goes up, must come down. But just how much – we finally have some idea!

Placement statistics from IIMA confirm the worst fears of the graduating MBA class. The average domestic salary is down 32%. Foreign offers have dried up. Big recruiters are missing or making just a token offer or two.

The placement process was officially closed after 8 days but rumour has it a few students are still looking for jobs. Or maybe they have jobs, but are still looking for something ‘better’.

The same stories are coming in everywhere. Top bschools like XLRI, MDI and IIFT are reporting 70-90% of the batch has secured placement. The rest I am sure will eventually find jobs, although at salaries much lower than expected.

Naturally junta is not in the best of spirits. But you know something – I think good will eventually come out of all this.

For some years now the MBA had become not a stepping stone into a corporate career but a kind of express elevator.

Now it’s back to basics. Start modestly, learn the business, figure out what really works outside of textbooks. It may not be out of choice but more MBAs are moving out of their comfort zone into new and uncharted sectors.

Stories like this one are especially heartening. The Economic Times reports:

Manishbhai Patel went shopping, and came back with an IIM graduate. Patel, who runs the Rs 3-crore Varun Radiators in Kalol, Gujarat, had been scouting for a chief executive to spearhead his ambitious expansion plans…

He made his pitch, convinced the 26-year-old IIM student of all the possibilities that a growth-hungry company had on offer, and bagged his new CEO for Rs 6 lakh per annum. “It’s a breakthrough. He will add value to our company, and we want to touch Rs 15 crore within a year,” says Patel, elated at his prize catch.

It’s not going to be easy for the CEO. Or for Mr Patel. But if this 26 year old can adjust his attitude and apply his aptitude, he can work wonders. I say this with confidence because I’ve heard stories like this from a previous generation of MBAs. Among them, super successful people I interviewed for ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’.

In the 70s and 80s, many IIM grads joined organisations such as FAIR – Foundation to Aid Industrial Recovery. The concept of FAIR was to take a sick industrial unit from a bank, put a young MBA in charge as the chief executive and turn around the company in two years. Retaining all the existing employees.

Sunil Handa, who later set up Core Healthcare and Eklavya school (but is of course best known and loved as the professor who’s inspired so many towards entrepreneurship) said of his stint at FAIR:

“To take a 23 year old fresher from IIM-A and throw him into Bhavnagar to revive a sick unit, required a lot of guts and the density of learning was very high. If I had spent 19 months in Hindustan Lever as a management trainee, I would not have learnt even one per cent of what I learnt in 19 months as a chief executive of a sick unit”.

Others like Vinayak Chatterjee (founder of Feedback Ventures) worked as executive assistant to Raunaq Singh and became part of the team which turned around Apollo Tyres.

So to the graduating class of 2009 I have one simple advice. Wherever you work, whatever you do, and no matter how lousy your take home…

Treat the next 2 years as if enrolled for another degree. Awarded by the University of Life.

Strive to learn, to grow, to polish the rough edges. Make friends with the salesman, the doorman and the chairman. Good relationships can take you a long long way.

Be humble yet do not be subservient. Understand the ground reality, gain trust and you will definitely get a chance to challenge the status quo.

You, the graduating class of 2009, are brand ambassadors for the animal known as the ‘MBA’. Prove the critics wrong. Show them that the education you receieved was more than a ticket to a fancy paycheque.

What goes down, must go up. When the economy recovers – as it definitely will – you will be a valuable and wise asset for any company. Until then, enjoy each day. Struggle is the sweetness we stir into our souls as we brew our own special brand of success.

A brand bigger than the bschool you graduate from. Or the very label ‘MBA’

-Rashmi Bansal

Read other articles on Entrepreneurship by Rashmi Bansal

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