What will happen to the job placement and summer internship plans of India's management and IIT students?
Many campuses are stepping in to help students hang on to their placements, in spite of the lockdown.
Avishek Rakshit, Samreen Ahmad, Gireesh Babu, Vinay Umarji and Arnab Dutta report.
With India shutdown and other countries virtually shut down too, as the COVID-19 pandemic gallops through populations, recruiters, especially multinationals, are revisiting their hiring plans.
That, naturally, has thrown the placement processes of India's top management and technology institutes into disarray.
Several students of Indian Institutes of Management have found their job offers revoked by US-based research and advisory firm Gartner. IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad have confirmed the revocations, with an official at the former's placement panel saying Gartner rescinded its final placement offers, as well as those for internships.
"The institute is trying to contact them to find an agreeable outcome," the IIM Calcutta official said.
Amit Karna, chairperson of placements at IIM Ahmedabad, too said: "Gartner has revoked offers made at the final placements. It had hired three students. No other firm has revoked final offers. The institute is finding new opportunities for affected students by reaching out to our alumni network, existing and new recruiters."
When contacted, Gartner refused to comment.
A few students of IIM Bangalore announced on LinkedIn that their summer placements and job offers were rescinded by a US-based firm.
But IIM Bangalore said it was in touch with the company, and trying to find other offers for the affected students. U Dinesh Kumar, chair, career development services, IIM Bangalore, said: "All firms have told us they are going to stand by their commitments. Offers have only been postponed. The companies are trying to work out plans once there is clarity on the lockdown after April 15. Mostly, financial sector firms have postponed offers, as they haven't been able to begin internships due to logistics and data safety issues."
Kumar did agree that some Gulf-based firms had withdrawn their summer placement offers because of travel restrictions. But the placement team had found other opportunities for the affected students.
Taking a middle path, a leading fast-moving consumer goods multinational has offered virtual assignments to those it picked for summer internships, instead of postponing their commitment.
The company is likely to take a call on final placements after the lockdown is over, because management trainees only join in June or July, sources said.
At IIM Calcutta, a start-up has revoked seven internship offers. "Some of our prominent regular recruiters have come forward to hire additional interns. The placement team is arranging new internships for those who lost their opportunities," said an IIM Calcutta official.
A spokesperson of IIM Shillong's placement committee said while none of the full-time offers had been revoked, certain medium-sized organisations and start-ups had pulled out summer internship offers. "We are dealing with an unprecedented situation, and the placement season has also been affected. We feel that the greater impact of the pandemic will be felt next year, because there could be cases of reduced hiring across sectors to cover up the losses incurred."
Sources said offers from US-based companies were the worst affected.
Indian Institutes of Technology have also been grappling with similar cancellations, especially by international recruiters.
The All IITs' Placement Committee has written to recruiters, requesting them not to cancel offers.
So far, IITs including Delhi, Kanpur, and Madras have seen at least one recruiter revoking job offers.
"A company said it would not be able to go ahead with the offers made. We have not heard from any other company, so I am optimistic that other offers would stand. We will try to create new opportunities for affected students after the lockdown period," said C S Shankar Ram, convener of the AIPC and placement advisor to IIT Madras.
IIT directors have been appealing to companies not to withdraw offers. "If a job or an internship offer is withdrawn at this stage, the student, having given up her/his right to apply for other similar jobs, will end up not having any job right now," V Ramgopal Rao, director, IIT Delhi, said in a LinkedIn post.
Other IIMs and IITs, that are relatively untouched by the problem so far, have been taking steps to ensure a minimal impact.
IIT Roorkee is liaising with industry to arrest any furthering deferring of jobs and others. Vinay Sharma, professor in charge of placement and internships at IIT Roorkee, said: "There hasn't been any such cases yet. We have been proactively interacting with the companies and they are cooperating."
Abhay Raj Singh Gautam, head, career development services at IIT Gandhinagar, said while the institute had not had any issues so far, it was in constant touch with recruiters and alumni.
Students have begun reaching out to potential recruiters on their own via social media.
An IIM Bangalore student whose summer internship should have begun in April is searching for opportunities in product management, strategy, consulting, or the analytics segment.
Campuses are trying to ensure the academic sessions of these students are not affected ahead of their joining dates amid the lockdown.
"We are enabling our students to take online classes... giving priority to those who are graduating to ensure their programme does not get affected much. The joining dates typically start from June. We want to ensure that our students are in a position to meet the joining dates. We will be able to get a better picture once the institute opens on April 15. We are working with the assumption that the offers would be honoured," said Shankar Ram.