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B-schools: deceiving the gullible junta

The astronomical salaries that are being projected are often dressed up data, writes Anirban Roy.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2007 16:58 IST

Money matters, ain’t it?

Most of the business schools across the country pride themselves on the astronomical salaries that are being offered to their graduates. It is true that placements do reflect on the quality of education being imparted in their hallowed portals. However, my point is most of the B-schools bask in the glory of salaries being offered rather than the quality of jobs on offer. There is a mad rush for publication of average salary, median salary, highest salary, lowest salary… arbitrary salary, etc. But do these figures accurately capture the placements scenario? I have my doubts.

I passed out from XYZ institute, one of the premier B-schools in India last month. After the placements the college came out with its official communication on placements. Suddenly, I came to know that we had stupendous placements with average salary hovering around Rs 14-odd lakhs and median salary in the nearby region.

Even the lowest salary quoted was Rs 8.6 lakhs. But wait a minute. I checked out my salary and that was below the lowest salary being quoted in the official brochure! (My company is an FMCG behemoth with an excellent pedigree but offers only Rs 8.14 lakhs. Sigh!) Now, my dilemma is how would I explain to my mother that my salary is lower than the lowest salary quoted in the brochure and that too when I claimed that I was in the top 10 of my batch!

I agree we had good placements but by any stretch of imagination the median and average salary couldn’t be Rs 14 lakhs! So, to clear my doubts I contacted one of the members of our college’s placement committee, who with an impish smile told me that all the figures were correct! I was at my wits’ end. How could it be? I know I wasn’t Einstien, but my high school mathematics comes to an end with mean, median and standard deviation concepts!

On further prodding, I was told about the method. The average and median salaries were calculated on the number of offers and not on the final accepted offers. Also, all the foreign salaries are converted to their INR equivalents and then added to the pool! Moreover, in calculation of the lowest salary the higher of the offers is taken into account for all the students. Confusing, isn’t it? Let me explain.

Most of the schools have people with prior work experience and they have a separate lateral recruitment process where the salaries being offered are higher. Moreover, in most of the good B-schools a candidate can have multiple offers from different companies. (I can’t go into the details). Now, suppose a guy is offered a Rs 25 lakhs package by a company with a not-so-good a reputation in the lateral recruitment, but has another ABC company’s offer worth Rs 20 lakhs but finally signs up with an excellent company with a lower offer of Rs 10 lakhs (you may think the guy is crazy but a company's repute does play a big role in selection of final company), the average salary for that guy will be 25+20+10/3 = Rs 18.33 lakhs!

But he will finally get a salary of only Rs 10 lakhs. So, what is this figure of Rs 18.33 lakhs about? I don’t know myself but in my view this figure doesn’t have any relevance whatsoever.

Consider another scenario - if a guy is offered a salary of £48,000 in London (second most expensive city in the world), so during the calculations of all those arbit numbers, this £48,000 is converted to INR as 48000x80 = Rs 38,40,000! Whoaa! And this astronomical number will be added to the calculation of those numbers.

All those concepts of purchasing power parity, etc. fly out of the window and what we get is a nicely dressed up inflated figure of high average and median salaries! Since, I had a better offer at Rs 9.5 lakhs, which I rejected, during calculation of lowest salary amongst all the students the figure of Rs 9.5 lakhs was used instead of my final offer of Rs 8.14 lakhs.

My question is; is this fair? Doesn’t it amount to misleading the gullible junta? The figures are factually correct but are they fair to all those wannabe MBAs who don’t know the intricacies and are promised the moon by these institutions? When queried the answer from the “placecom” is all the institutions in this country engage in such practices. So, if we act morally and publish the saner data of average salaries of accepted offers we’ll lose out to others.

The competition is so high that even the different programmes of the same institute engage in such petty one-upmanship. In our case, the newly started one-year GMP programme presented a very rosy picture of their placements and quoted a higher average salary than the 2-year regular Business Management (BM) and Personnel Management & Industrial Relations (PMIR) courses on which the reputation of the institute is built.

According to the grapevine, the GMP guys struggled for their placements and these figures were highly inflated just to give it a feel-good factor while comparing favourably with the more established BM and PMIR courses. But just like a false repeated 1,000 times doesn’t become the truth, so also the practice of cooking up numbers by all institutions doesn’t give moral legitimacy to this practice.

It is still unethical and wrong to present the dressed up data. Most of these institutions have a separate course on ethics but this practice doesn't come under the purview of ethical behaviour.

The bigger question is why do these institutions engage in such practices in the first place? It is because most of the MBA aspirants make their impressions of an MBA institution by the salaries being offered. Let’s face it – money is the primary motivation for an MBA aspirant for doing his/her MBA except perhaps a few career-oriented ones.

All those answers regarding business knowledge, holistic perspective development and nation building parroted by students in MBA interviews as their reason for doing MBA are all gas. So for them salaries being offered in campuses, go a long way in their final decision of choosing an institute (except say IIM A, B and C). So, in the rat race of attracting the best talents, all the institutes do whatever in their powers to present the numbers in a way to make them attractive. And they get away with it because no one questions them and there is a readymade market of wannabe MBAs to lap up this “dis-information” (distorted information).

The media is also waiting on the wings to publish whatever is given to them and then create a halo around these institutes. Come on, how many times have you seen or read in the papers about the quality of jobs, the kind of job profiles, the quality of teaching staff, number of professors, infrastructure, pedigree, alumni network about the MBA institutes? But you are sure to see a headline grabbing front-page news that institute XYZ students bags a $100,000 job.

My suggestion to the wannabe MBAs is to look for better indicators before choosing an institute. It is best to talk to an alumnus of the college to get a fair idea. Get to know which are the companies who visit the campus regularly, the kind of job profiles on offer etc. And, when you are going to spend two years of your life at a place it is better to visit the campus personally before making a final call.

Moreover, instead of looking at the average and median salary offers, look for average and median of accepted final offers and the standard deviation amongst them. Don’t put too much emphasis on the salaries being offered as in most cases they are CTCs (Cost to Companies) and not the take home salaries.

The $100,000 jobs, astronomical average salaries all look great on paper and make for an engrossing copy but do they present the true picture? I wonder.

Our surfer Anirban Roy can be reached at anirban.roy@gmail.com .

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