An electrical engineer quit French consulting, technology and outsourcing company Cap Gemini in Pune to pursue her interest in green and economic issues. A software engineer left his high-paying job at American multinational computer technology company Oracle in Hyderabad for similar reasons.
Neelima Mishra applied for the postgraduate programme at the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) because, “being an autonomous institution…the direction of the institution was in sync with my interest areas — conservation, livelihood and nature.” Mishra has been placed through campus placements with the Odisha Livelihoods Mission where she will be “working towards poverty alleviation.”
Her classmate Arvind Garimella, inclined towards the development sector and social entrepreneurship, is all set to join the Andhra Pradesh government’s Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty.
So, what is driving such professionals to a field like forest management? The opportunities, say experts. Moreover, the work opportunities are not restricted to the mills and the woods. Life after a forest management course is not an out-and-out jungle tale. Nor is it about a spartan life with frugal means. (One of the professionals we spoke to makes about Rs. 80 lakh a year. For starting salaries, see accompanying box.) IIFM alumni work for government-run poverty alleviation projects, microfinance organisations, multilateral agencies such as United Nations Development Programme, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank, to name a few avenues, which pay rich dividends.
A few go solo. For example, one of the IIFM alumni has designed a system for direct cash transfers through mobile phones in Tanzania. Delhi-based Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya’s Ekgaon Technologies, with an annual turnover of Rs. 1.32 crore, won the bid for the project, which is now being implemented in the African nation. (Ekgaon focuses on taking technology-enabled services to rural and under-served communities.)
Paul Basil, who had enrolled at IIFM for the management bit instead of the forest component, launched an organisation which offers funding, mentoring, networking and talent to very early stage innovation-based enterprises. In the past 11 years, Villgro Innovations Foundation, Chennai, boasts of having incubated 64 projects, roughly 12 of which have become self-sustaining. “These have created 3800 jobs. We invested Rs. 4 million into (all) these incubatees. They’ve gone on to raise Rs. 20 million and provide products and services that have touched five million customers across rural India,” says Basil.
Three IIFM alumni pursuing different careers talk about the training at their alma mater and prospects afterwards
VP - raw material and plantation, Greenply and FSC lead auditor
Whatever an Indian Forest Service officer is taught at (their institute in) Dehradun is taught to IIFM students. Whatever MBA students study at IIM Ahmedabad is taught to IIFM students. After the course, there is tremendous scope not only in forest management, NGOs and international organisations but also in marketing, financial institutions such as HDFC, NABARD etc, in supply chain management. People trained in forest management are also equipped for climate change studies, clean development mechanism, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification (for auditors), corporate social responsibility roles and market research.
Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya
Co-founder and CEO, Ekgaon Technologies and Ashoka Lemelson fellow and Ashoka Globalizer fellow
What helps (at IIFM) is the multi-dimensional exposure we got. One’s length and breadth of understanding increased a lot which no other institute gives, except probably Institute of Rural Management, Anand. We spent about nine months in the field. That was great. But this period of field exposure has been shortened. As far as the scope is concerned…in India, there’s brief scope in natural resource management, forest management and climate change because these are dominated by the government. However, globally there is huge scope. The (IIFM) training is good enough for you to compete globally
Founder and CEO, Villgro Foundation
Staying on a hillock (campus), away from the city of Bhopal, with bright minds...with diverse backgrounds...together for two years was for me — someone from Kerala which is on the southern tip of India — the biggest gain. First, it’s about being able to be with a diverse set of people and work together. You support each other, you challenge each other, you fight with each other. You are trained to work in pan-India teams. The second thing is the immersion into the development sector. I took up the course because of the management piece in it. I wished to do a management course with a rural focus. I am applying the management piece (in my work); that grind is useful
IIFM placements at a glance
All the 86 students of the 2010-12 batch were placed in 34 organisations, as per official information
* Highest domestic pay package offered: Rs. 10.5 lakh a year
* Lowest domestic pay package offered: Rs. 4.5 lakh a year
* Average pay package (national): Rs. 7.3 lakh a year
Companies that visited the institute for campus placements
* National Innovation Foundation
* Axis Bank
* ITC PSPD
* Aditya Birla Group (International)
* Madhya Pradesh Forest Department
* Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion
* Gujarat State Watershed Agency
* MSME CLUSTERS
* Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board
* Prime Minister Rural Development Fellowship (PMRDF)
* Sahyog Microfinance
* Madhya Pradesh Khadi Village Industries Corporation
* National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited
* The Energy Resources Institute (TERI)
* Centre of Environment Education (CEE)
* Grasim Industries (Aditya Birla Group)
* Madhya Pradesh Horticulture Department
* Jungle Lodges & Resorts
* LUPIN Foundation
* ACC Cement
* Sambodhi Research
* IFMR - Centre for Development Finance
* Madhya Pradesh Environmental Planning & Coordination
* New Concept Information System
* ICICI Bank
* IDBI Bank
* HDFC Bank
The list is not exhaustive
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