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Indian startups step in with jobs for IIT grads who lost big offers after Covid

Indian startups have become a campus recruitment constant, but they seem to be playing a bigger role in job offers as more established firms deal with Covid fallout.

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New Delhi: Homegrown startups are coming to the rescue of students from IITs and other premier engineering institutes who have been affected by withdrawals of job offers in light of the Covid-19 lockdown and its economic fallout.

Since the lockdown began late March, there have been reports of established players, including foreign ones, withdrawing job offers to students of premier colleges like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)

But ThePrint has learnt from several Indian institutes, students and startups that newer firms are helping fill the void. 

While startups are now a constant in campus placement seasons, the withdrawal of job offers is said to be helping them recruit talent that may otherwise have been snapped up by bigger players. Meanwhile, among students, startups present a fresh opportunity in a job market that currently seems beset with uncertainty.

Insiders say the pay on offer is good too, with some startups offering up to Rs 12 lakh-Rs 20 lakh for freshers annually.

Also Read: Foreign dream will have to wait as Covid-19 layoffs in US cast shadow on IIT, IIM placements

Filling the void

The first clouds on the Indian campus recruitment scene appeared in late March as the US-based research firm Gartner rescinded its job offers from IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). 

Following that, other big firms also withdrew job offers from IIT students as businesses around the world looked to mitigate the fallout of the Covid-19 lockdown on their operations. 

According to officials at IIT-Madras, the institute suffered 16 job offer withdrawals because of the pandemic. IIT-Delhi students also suffered because of the pandemic, an official said. “We cannot share the exact numbers of withdrawals, but the numbers are only in single digits.”

As the institutes look to arrange alternatives for students, including appeals to their alumni, several startups, flush with funds from backers and raring to grow, are stepping in.

“The institute has been taking help from the alumni network to get placement for students whose job offers were withdrawn and also for those who could not be placed in the academic session 2019-20,” said Prof. C.S. Shankar Ram, adviser for training and placements at IIT-Madras. “Startups are also approaching us to hire our students.”

Anishya Madan, the industrial liaison officer in the Office of Career Services at IIT-Delhi, said, “We have had some of our job offers pulled out, although not too many. But now we are being approached by a lot of startups who want to hire our students.

“I get at least four-five requests from startups on a daily basis. We are trying to see how we can help all students get placed,” Madan added.

The placement office at IIT-Roorkee also confirmed that they are being approached by startups for placements, but said it was nothing unusual. 

“Startups have always been approaching us, looking to hire the brightest minds in the country… Likewise, this year as well, there are startups who would want to hire from the best of the talent pool. These offers are applicable to all eligible students and not restricted to any category,” said Vinay Sharma, the professor in-charge for placements and internships at IIT-Roorkee.

Also Read: IITs, IIMs ready for all possible scenarios after US firm rescinds job offers amid Covid-19

‘A two-way street’

A number of startups that ThePrint spoke to said it’s a two-way street — while they are approaching IITs through formal channels as well as through job portals like LinkedIn, some students are contacting them on an individual level.

Startup founders said they were not just looking for IIT students, but also those from other prominent colleges like the Delhi Technological University (formerly Delhi College of Engineering) and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani.

“Graduates from IITs have approached us in large numbers this year because a lot of them have found their job and internship offers withdrawn. Those who could not get internships because of the pandemic have also approached us,” said Vaibhav Singh, co-founder of Visit, a startup in the healthcare sector.

“We have given internships to many people and also hired some. Not just IITs, we have also taken people from BITS and other premier institutes on-board.”

According to Singh, “even as other established firms are having trouble, startups, especially the ones in the telemedicine space like us, are going strong because the government is also pushing for digital healthcare”.

Explaining why startups are in a better position to offer jobs right now, Awais Ahmed, the founder and CEO of the Indian space-tech startup Pixxel, said, “Established firms run on a fixed cash flow, so when they don’t have the fixed cash flow they require, they are unable to spend on certain things, but it’s not the same case with startups that run on funding. We accommodate people as per our need.”

Ahmed said startups have “extended both job offers and internships to students this year as well”. 

“We went out looking for the best of the talent pool in IITs and other top institutions this year as well,” he added. “Some people whose job offers were withdrawn also approached us and we have accommodated them.” 

When it comes to salary packages for IIT graduates, Awais said there isn’t a huge difference in what startups and the established firms offer.

A recent graduate of IIT-Roorkee, whose pre-placement offer was withdrawn because of the pandemic, said he had been receiving a better response from startups. 

“I had an offer from a Bengaluru-based IT firm but the offer suffered because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am one of the many whose job offers were withdrawn. Now I am trying to reach potential employers on my own, through personal contacts and social media,” the graduate added. “I have also approached some startups and they are more welcoming than established firms.”

A former tech company employee who is now planning to start his own telemedicine startup said he was on the hunt for “graduates from IITs and Delhi College of Engineering (sic) because I am aware that many students there have had their job offers withdrawn”.

“People will be willing to take a risk at this juncture,” he added. “A job with a new venture will be better than no job at all.”

This is an updated version of the report

Also Read: Must create jobs for those who lost them due to Covid-19: UN secretary general on May Day


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