New Delhi: “Do some different shit.”
That’s what Raghu Ram, MTV’s creative head who sports a shaved head and bullies hapless candidates on the MTV Roadies reality show, is saying on business school campuses these days.
The “different shit” that Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd, a venture of US-based Viacom Inc. and Television Eighteen India Ltd, which owns MTV in the country, wants students to do is compete across 22 campuses to land the next big idea for MTV, a brand that prides itself on its irreverence.
The media and entertainment company, which owns three other television networks besides MTV, scouted for on-campus talent for the first time in the job placement season of March this year, and the contest is a direct fallout of that experience.
“When we realized students knew very little about the industry, we were foxed,” said Abhinav Chopra, who heads human resources at Viacom18.
The contest, said Chopra, is a way to make students research the growing media and entertainment business in India. At the same time, the company gets to use talented students to float new programmes.
While recruiters are using business school competitions to establish their brand on campuses, for students, business case competitions and quizzes—new as well as those that have been around for some time—now have a higher stake than before: a chance to get noticed by a recruiter.
Some contests have a pre-placement offer (PPO) or pre-placement interview (PPI) as a prize, instead of cash prizes used earlier.
Students such as Sourabh Hemvrum of the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, say this can be a big incentive. Hemvrum participated in a business competition earlier this month at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences. His team’s winning entry of an advertisement for the Kit Kat chocolate brand won him a PPI at Nestle India Ltd, a subsidiary of the world’s largest food-and-beverage company. It means Hemvrum, 25, is already assured of a shot at a job ahead of his batchmates.
Job placement season for 2009 gets formally inaugurated February-March next year, and given Wall Street’s meltdown, promises to be a tough one.
In these times, Hemvrum’s victory is not small. He says the PPI was an incentive when he put in a week of work designing a 30-second TV spot, and a print, Internet, SMS and on-ground campaign.
“Teams from other business schools were there as well: Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi; Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad; Management Development Institute, Gurgaon,” said Hemvrum.
Students on other campuses agree competitions are a rage. “The stakes have just been raised. Most companies offer PPO or PPI,” said Anindya Biswas, a 2009-batch student at IIM Indore.
The MTV contest, besides allowing winners to make a pilot programme with the network’s creative team in Mumbai, will also ensure they are interviewed when Viacom18 recruits in the final placement season next year. The winners will skip the rounds of group discussions and vetting of curricula vitae, or CVs.
Companies that regularly recruit on campuses say even when competitions do not lead to a direct job, they end up raising a winner’s profile, helping recruiters shift CVs.
“Most students who make it to the final rounds of the competition explicitly mention DconStruct in their resumes when they apply to us,” said Vinod Nair, managing partner of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants’ India practice, referring to his company’s business case competition launched this month at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, IIM Bangalore, and IIM Calcutta. (Diamond is among the consultants used by HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint.)
Diamond held its on-campus competition for the second straight year. It said the response has increased manifold. A hundred students participated in the comptetition at IIM Calcutta, a campus its competition tapped for the first time, which is almost one-fifth of the total students.
Recruiters such as Nair say competitions help them gauge capabilities across a batch. In line with these expectations, most companies make students work on real-time business cases.
The cars to financial services group Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, in its first competition across 16 business schools, is encouraging students to form shadow boards of directors. The teams will suggest strategies for the sectors the company has been in for a long time—farm equipment—to those it has got into recently—media and Bollywood.
The Mahindra War Room contest has drawn 784 four-member teams from campuses that include the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, Xavier Labour Relations Institute from Jamshedpur, and Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development from Pune, besides the six IIMs.
“(We want) India’s best and brightest B-school students to improve their strategic skills in Mahindra’s real-time business issues,” said Allen Sequeira, senior vice-president of human resources at the Mahindra group.
He says it is a bonus if in this process, the company ends up identifying employable talent, though that is not the intention of the contest.
“Would I not look at potential managers?” said Sequeira. “Yes, why not?”