Caste system in companies w.r.t IIMs and other top institutes

4th April 2010

It is ingrained in the human nature to want to be considered one pedestal above the rest. People want to always be a part of a privileged few who are considered a cut above the rest. Some people earn it by working hard towards it. Some people do not aim for it but get that pedestal by virtue of their work. Some people get it because they are plain lucky.

Corporate India has for years now practised a subtle and sophisticated form of casteism. That is primarily because of managers from IIMs with the first 3 letters of the English alphabet.

Let’s analyse this from the start. Those are amongst the oldest institutes in the country. And yes, places like IIM A had worked very hard over the years to ensure that only the best got in and that they were made to go through extensive rigour before they got out. So far, so good. Now come the other institutes. Some starting out late, others always been there but never had the kind of filtering nor the rigour of IIM Ahmedabad. The Common Admission Test (CAT) touted as one of the most difficult exams in the world became the benchmark and it was automatically assumed that if you have cleared the CAT you are special.

Until, 2004-05 when companies chose people only from IIM A,B,C or gave them better offers or profiles they could still say that since IIM A,B,C students are the best performers in the CAT, they can be considered superior. It was true that their cut offs were higher. So if you believe that getting 1-2 percentile more makes that person superior then in that sense you can accept that argument.

However, over the last 3-4 years IIMs have all changed their criteria including IIM A. Getting a higher percentile in CAT could not guarantee you even a call from IIM A and B. People with lesser percentiles but ‘luckier stars’ could get through but not the one who has say 99.8%ile; a clear lead of 1.5%; but poor luck. ‘Luckier Stars’ = the all changing admission requirements, the state you studied in, the board your parents put you into etc. I mean in 1 year 70% in your 10th and 12th is enough and in another even 88% is not! You would take the CAT thinking you will get calls despite being a fresher only to suddenly know after the results that your fresher status went against you. The biggest problem in this is that none of the IIMs have the guts to reveal their criteria before the test is taken. So you may be sitting in the hall trying to do well in all the sections to know 2 months later that had you done only okay in one section but maximised in other 2 to get a high overall score you would have landed an IIM call. And CAT 2009 has taken the whole thing to just another level. If any smart ass from IIM ABC from the batch of 2010-12 feels he is better than the people in Lucknow or Indore or MDI should be sent a ‘Get Well Soon’ card. He/She may or may not be better. Particularly this year, there hundreds equally deserving candidates who have been left out because of random luck.

Basically, one being in IIM A or B is not necessarily because you are better than the rest but maybe because you are just luckier. My issue is not with these people. My issue is with companies that practise untouchability.

For e.g. Bholeram Cream Group aka BCG, a big multinational consultancy would not even look at your Resume if you are not from IIM with first 3 letters of the English alphabet as suffix. You are automatically disqualified. There is no basis to it. I say that because over the last few years getting into most of these institutes has been more because of a person fitting into particular criteria rather than they having done anything out of the ordinary. There many extra-ordinary people languishing in XLRI, IIM Indore, IIM Kozhikode etc. who get rejected by default by BCG. And my issue is with the fact that they will not allow you to even appear for an interview. All the talk about equal opportunities employment etc. is hogwash.

Another big consultancy, in fact the biggest amongst all, MicKey Mouse & Co. is slightly better. They call for applications from a host of comparable institutes and give a chance to at least the extra-ordinary people from the ‘other’ campuses to showcase themselves. Only issue is that its more of a rejection game. They will try hard to reject people. Reason: People taking the interviews are 99% of the times from IIM ABC.

It is almost like a clan. People from these companies recruit only from the ‘excusive’ campuses because these are their own old campuses. And, their prestige in the society and the one-up manship over others will stay only if no other campus is allowed a foothold in ‘their’ company.

My only real problem is not the fact they consider the other campuses inferior. Maybe they are. But how can you prevent someone an opportunity to even make a case for oneself? Is every individual in these campuses also inferior?

Now you many argue that even students from institutes which have 75%ile as cutoff would want interviews with these companies. This argument is not valid as there is a huge difference. My argument is based on the fact that people with higher percentiles in the same exam miss out on IIM ABC because of weird admission criteria.

I know a few of my friends who currently going through a lot of humiliation. I call it humiliation because they are in the same company as people from IIM ABC but are being offered 50% of the amount for internships and are being put up in Mumbai where as those from the ‘haloed’ campuses fly to Pardes. And again there is no justification for this. No evaluation was done before making this distinction. Their only basis is the fact that those guys eat and crap in the haloed halls of IIM ABC. It is almost the same caste system that was followed for centuries in this country. Can any of these companies give one parameter on which these distinctions are made? What is it? CAT, 10th, 12th, extra-curriculars, religion, caste, looks? I know someone who is better on most of these counts and yet finds himself with an inferior profile only because he is from IIM Indore.

It is no secret that alumni base is the single biggest reason for the kind of recruitment that takes place on any campus. And the reason this casteism takes place is because of the separatist attitude of managers at the decision making level of all these kinds of companies who come from these ‘exclusive’ campuses.

In my opinion any company that even refuses to look at your resume or take your interview because you are from a particular institute is casteist. And if they claim to be equal opportunities employers they should be sued.

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