A final year MTech student at IIT-Bombay, Abhijit Patil, 25, found himself caught in a tussle with his parents when placements season came around. Patil has already founded a 3D printing services company called 3DZest and wanted to give it his full attention after graduation, while his parents preferred he go through campus placements and take the safer job route.
“I come from a small town, Malegaon, in the Nashik district. My parents are teachers and we have never had a businessman in our family,” says Patil. “When I wanted to forego placements to work on my start-up, my parents were unconvinced and tried to discourage me.”
Luckily for Patil, IIT-Bombay (IIT-B) introduced a new scheme last year, called the Deferred Placement Programme (DPP). Under this programme, Patil can concentrate on his start-up for now, and if he changes his mind in two years, he can sit for campus placements in November 2016. Patil is one of 13 final-year IIT-B students to avail of this option; last year, only one student chose it.
As the entrepreneurship spirit grows among students, the deferred placements scheme has been gaining ground at various institutes over the past few years. Prominent technology institutes such as IIT-B, IIT-Madras and IIT-Kharagpur, and B-schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta have started offering students this option, to encourage entrepreneurship. Mumbai-based B-School SP Jain has been offering it since 2008, and NITIE, a B-school in Powai, introduced the scheme this year.
At IIT-B, students have to first submit a business plan to the placements committee; their plan is vetted, and selected students are also mentored by the institute’s incubation centre, called Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), free of cost.
“We judge whether a student has the potential to run a start-up before making the selection. If their proposal is sound, it is sent to the IIT-Bombay placements committee for final approval,” says Poyni Bhatt, chief operating officer, SINE. “We want to encourage more and more students to venture out on their own if they have dreams.”
Amid a rising wave of start-ups in India, many college students have business ideas even while in college. However, a large number of these do not see the light of day, held back by financial insecurities and parental pressure.
“Explaining to your parents that even after graduating from an IIT, you do not have a job, is difficult,” says Anurag Meena, final-year BTech student at IIT-Bombay, who is working on a healthcare-based start-up. “Many students bend under this pressure. The DPP will help me convince my parents that I still have the opportunity to undergo campus placements, in case my start-up fails.”
The pressure to earn quickly to pay off hefty education loans, especially in case of management graduates, also discourages students from taking the start-up route.
“Many students who have taken education loans on their name cannot afford the uncertainty of a personal business,” says Saumil Shah, final-year MBA student at NITIE, Powai. “This is the first time our college has introduced the concept, and I will definitely utilise it.”
Experts say that each start-up, regardless of how good the idea is, has high chances of failure, owing to market dynamics and other unforeseen circumstances.
“There may be a clash between the partners, and some founders may quit. In such cases, it’s difficult for the remaining partners to carry the weight of the start-up alone. In other cases, the market could be hostile, or the start-up may not receive funding on time. In contrast, campus placements are a safe haven,” says Vignesh Shankar, founder of Delhi-based education start-up Ignatius Initiatives and IIM-Ahmedabad graduate.
IIT-Bombay’s incubation centre SINE helps those under the DPP with pre-incubation, idea validation, business plan preparation, and lessons on pitching, raising funds and communication with venture capitalists. SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), which has had the scheme since 2008, offers funding in addition to regular mentorship.
“We will receive a monthly stipend of Rs 30,000 for two years as a 'survival grant',” says Saurabh Sarin, 2014 SPJIMR graduate and co-founder of an online education start-up called AcadMentor based in Bhopal. “If we decide to take up jobs through campus placements after these two years, we will have to repay that amount as loan to the institute.”