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With just days left for placement season to end, many IIT students are still without jobs

The placement season, which began poorly at most IITs, was expected to at least end on a high note. But YourStory finds that many IIT graduates are yet to find a job and are hoping against hope to get an offer soon.

With just days left for placement season to end, many IIT students are still without jobs

Wednesday May 15, 2024 , 9 min Read

For a long time, the debate surrounding the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology has focused on whether it is more challenging to gain admission to them, or to meet the rigorous discipline and hardwork demanded by the courses. 

However, currently, the most difficult part appears to be securing a job after graduating from one.

This is in stark contrast to the hope with which the students entered these campuses. Those who join IITs are generally considered to be set for life. Understandably so, because about a million take the entrance test and only few thousands gain admission. The acceptance rate at 0.5-2% is less than that of even Ivy League colleges in the United States. 

These students represent the cream of what India has to offer. So, imagine their shock when, after clearing an almost impossible entrance test, slogging it out for four years and completing their course, they find themselves without a suitable job offer.

Take the case of Raghav Verma (name changed), for instance. A final-year BTech student at an older, established IIT, Verma is praying fervently to land a job even as the clock ticks on the 2023-24 placement season. Verma isn’t alone. Thousands of other IITians across the country are still not placed and are getting increasingly nervous about their future prospects.

Campus placements mark the culmination of a tedious four-year journey for students pursuing undergraduate programmes at IITs. Typically, campus placements unfold in two phases, starting from June-July the previous year and concluding by April-May in the current one. However, the current hiring season has witnessed subdued activity at IITs compared with the previous years.

While a tepid demand for IIT graduates in the first phase was surprising, many academicians and experts considered it an anomaly and put it to factors beyond control like the war in Ukraine.

The situation was expected to be set right in the second phase, but so far there have been few job offers and, as of this article’s publication, a back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that 30-35% of the graduates across IITs are yet to be placed. 

Students like Verma are now slowly coming to grasp the severity of the situation—a looming possibility of unemployment post-BTech from a renowned IIT, as well as not meeting his family’s expectations. This has pushed him to actively explore alternatives off-campus, including internships at reputed firms.

IT majors to blame?

One reason for the lower numbers could be the decrease in IT jobs. “Traditionally, they (IT majors) have been the highest recruiters from IITs. However, global uncertainties and lower demand from the US clients have compelled them to hire a lesser number of freshers this year,” says Shantanu Rooj, Founder and CEO of TeamLease Edtech. 

International tensions didn’t help either. “Several MNCs and consultancy organisations have reduced their appetite to hire freshers owing to global uncertainties (Middle East and Ukraine),” he adds.

At IIT Bombay, about 665 students, or 34% of the total participants in this year’s placements, remain unplaced as per the latest data (as of April 5) from the institute. It’s important to note that the placement season is scheduled to officially wrap up by June.

This should be worrying because the number of students without offers at the end of the placement season is increasing each year. In 2021-22, 11% of the students were without any offers and the number was 18% in 2022-23.

To make matters worse, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data science have helped many organisations to automate lower-level tasks, and several other tasks are being outsourced to GenAI platforms, thereby reducing the demand for fresh talent.

The total headcount across India’s top IT services companies saw a decrease of over 70,000 in the fiscal year ended March 2024. The IT firms reportedly had their lowest intake of fresh engineers in over two decades at the end of the last fiscal year.

Meanwhile, at IIT Delhi, the placement season for 2023-24 is slow as well. According to the latest data (as of April 16), about 731 students, making up to 40% of the total students who enrolled for this year’s placements, are still awaiting job offers.

Even here, 25% of students in 2021-22 and 16% in 2022-23 remained without offers at the end of the placement season, according to the Office of Career Services (OCS) at IIT Delhi.

IIT Delhi shared the data on the placement seasons of 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request from Dheeraj Singh, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and IIM Calcutta. YourStory has reviewed a copy of the RTI response.

IIT Placement

Infographic design: Nihar Apte

Unmet aspirations

All IITs are not equal. Among the 23 across India, IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, IIT Roorkee, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Guwahati, and IIT BHU Varanasi are considered to be more equal than the others. They are also the older institutions, ranking high in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) India Rankings 2023.

YourStory reached out to the top seven older IITs for comments on the current placement season, but received replies only from one. 

Prof. Sameer Jadhav, professor-in-charge of placements, IIT Bombay, says, “We would not like to comment now as student semester end examinations are on.” 

While the older institutes hold greater significance due to their enduring legacy, the placement situation looks bleak in both older and newer IITs, given they face the same job market challenges.

YourStory also reached out to students from various IITs to understand the placement situation at their institutions. 

Nirmal Rao (name changed), a final-year electrical engineering student at a newer IIT, continues to search for a job after completing a summer internship at a large multinational corporation (MNC). Driven by a deep passion for his field, Rao is still determined to explore opportunities within the broader field of electrical engineering, unlike many of his peers who turned to software roles. 

Verma, the BTech (in metallurgy) student at an older IIT, has attended interviews for various roles, including in software, due to limited opportunities in his primary field.

He also attributes the current lack of job offers to the reduced number of companies in the software sector this year.

“Usually, most of the CS (computer science) students are placed by now, but this time, there are a lot more of them who haven’t received offers during placements. Some students in the top branches also remain unplaced. Despite having coding skills and completing good internships, some of my friends still haven’t got placements,” Verma explains.

In spite of his concerns, Verma remains optimistic and is banking on upcoming interviews to land a job.

He has also started exploring off-campus opportunities, including reaching out directly to IIT alumni. 

He states that even the students who have landed jobs during placements are dissatisfied with the packages offered this year, as they are lower than the previous years. He claims that the overall average package this year has decreased to Rs 10-12 lakh a year, from around Rs 15-18 lakh at his institute.

“Lower demand of freshers from the IT industry has resulted in lower pay packages (demand-supply mismatch). Many freshers are still hanging around looking for IT roles and are not taking up positions in traditional engineering companies yet,” says TeamLease Edtech’s Rooj. 

Interestingly, a few students who have clinched jobs, are considering pursuing an MTech or MBA. They have also appeared for the Common Admission Test (CAT), a computer-based test for admission to management programmes.

Rooj suggests that students should consider joining an organisation as trainees or interns, and then focus on converting their positions into full-time roles.

He also recommends acquiring complementary skills, getting involved in live projects to gain practical experience and, most importantly, networking—by contacting friends, seniors, and alumni to ask for references and connections.

Tapping alumni network

IITs established more than 60 years ago have a large alumni network that are tapped both directly and indirectly during and beyond the placement season.

Singh, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and IIM Calcutta, is the founder and lead mentor of the Global IIT Alumni Support Group, which claims to have a network of over 500 alumni across the world.

“Last year, around March-April, we initiated this effort with IIT Kanpur when we learned that a student was struggling with placements,” says Singh. He recalls that when he asked the student if there were more graduates who were struggling to get jobs, he connected him with 50 people from IIT Kanpur alone.

While the alumni group couldn’t provide jobs to everyone, it offered emotional support and financial assistance to some. “We could help 20 of them get off-campus jobs through our networks after our best efforts,” Singh notes. 

He says the group has 50 mentors and around 350 student sign-ups for the second edition this year. In the current mentoring batch, over 100 students have been placed.

Singh adds the group is connected with students from 15 IITs, providing them with insights into the real situation on the ground. He estimates that roughly a third of the students in the older, more established IITs are not placed in the current season.

While the current batch of students are actively seeking employment, there are also graduates from the previous year who are still in search of jobs. 

Brij Sinha (name changed), who completed a Master’s degree from one of the older IITs a year ago, is still in search of employment. Many other students who pursued Master’s degrees hoping for better job prospects are also experiencing the same challenge.

According to Singh and some final-year students, the placement season for the year 2023-24 at multiple IITs is “unofficially over”. For students like Verma who thought that their struggle  to success was over once they got into an IIT—the options are dwindling. They are also realising that their challenges are truly beginning now.

(Cover image and infographic designed by Nihar Apte)

(The story was updated to correct a typo)

Edited by Megha Reddy and Jarshad NK