Why Indian Universities should abolish ‘placements’.

It should be obvious, but it isn’t. Placements are killing Indian education.
Every year, families, friends, neighbours and marriage bureaus go frantic about the size of ‘packages’ in Indian universities. 

What do we lose?

  • Work and fun become disjoint – It was Noel Coward who said, “Work is more than fun”. Thanks to the perceived safety blanket of mass recruitment we produce millions of engineers graduates who work at a bad job five days a week, just to have ‘fun’ on weekends. Beyond the indignity of labor, it signals a complete commoditization of a nation’s talent – like toothpaste or detergent. 
  • A throttled campus experience – Right from day 0 of college, there’s an inclination to do things that supposedly ‘help your profile’. While that is a good goal in itself, it loses meaning when all activities on campus are somehow meant to score brownie points for placements. In the process, most of us lose curiosity towards truly remarkable things. Undergraduate education, perhaps the best place to experiment and fail at things, becomes a throttled assembly line.
  • Contagious to management education – A bunch of extremely talented students pivot to CAT – entrance test for India’s prestigious institutes of management. For the most part, it is merely a great way to defer placements by two years. With lucrative salaries at offer, it makes intuitive sense for almost everyone. That compromises however, our ability as a nation to push frontiers of thinking. I’d argue that there are far, far better ways to leverage such talent than placements.

Imagine a world without mass recruitment

  • More serendipity, better jobs – Without the safety blanket, undergraduates will be pushed to pursue opportunities right from their sophomore year. In the process, they will build relationships with interesting people across industries. They will understand their true likes and dislikes. A job that is not determined by a 3 hour interview. A job where you are irreplaceable. A job that goes beyond a standard employer-employee pact.
  • Relaxed teenagers –  Somehow, all of this placement paranoia starts after high school. Subconsciously, parents are investing in an insurance policy that yields returns after college. With this insurance policy removed, teenagers will deeply engage with their ‘hobbies’. We won’t be a nation full of teenagers whose passions never go beyond being ‘hobbies’ at footnote of resumes.
  • Attack bigger problems – India’s IT services revolution is what Foxconn is to China. Not of all us are BPO workers, but the minuscule number of new solutions emerging out of India is alarming. Do we really want to be a nation with 1.3 billion people writing code at the lowest price for rest of the world? Can it be the only way to achieve 10% GDP growth?

    The argument isn’t against jobs, it’s against mass recruitment. It’s about finding our true aspirations beyond a salary cushion. Humanity’s greatest leaps are made by people who had only two choices – to succeed or die. How many of us are deliberately willing to position ourselves?

60 days of cashlessness: to care way beyond

Today is the day. The 60th in a small and ambitious experiment.

We at Kopo Kopo began as kindred spirits passionate for a seemingly mechanistic cause ― replacing cash with mobile money. The passion extends way beyond the confines of our office, pervading our dinner conversations, late-night rants and dreams. Some of us have literally woken up in the night, murmuring “M-PESA”, much to the concern of our better halves.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, when one of us decides to repeatedly challenge common courtesy for sake of the bigger picture.  If that results in missing three meals because the restaurants won’t accept M-PESA, so be it.

It reminds me of Jony Ive’s eulogy to Steve Jobs, where he says “There is a gravity; almost a sense of civic responsibility to care way beyond any functional imperative.”

When we invited Nairobi to participate in the experiment, the lukewarm response signaled that the road to cashlessness is long and potholed.  The lessons for us ― and the community ― are to be cherished, measured, implemented and iterated. And with enough footprints left behind, we’ll get there.

Thanks for reading.

Going cashless for 60 days

As a company, we relentlessly evangelize the notion of a “less cash society“. Toeing that line, I’ve initiated an experiment whereby I’ll be living on M-Pesa for 60 days. No cash, no cards―only M-Pesa.

With the experiment, I will be putting the following hypotheses to rigorous testing:

1) In the long run, is it more or less expensive to live on M-Pesa? What pain points need to be alleviated?

2) How often are payments delayed or denied? What are the infrastructural edges that require smoothing?

3) How receptive are businesses to accepting M-Pesa?

Stay tuned to this space for updates.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got…

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, back when I was 23 and newly out of school, is this: look around and figure out who you want to be on your team. Figure out the people around you that you want to work with for the rest of your life. Figure out the people who are smart & awesome, who share your values, who get things done — and maybe most important, who you like to be with and who you want to help win. And treat them right, always. Look for ways to help, to work together, to learn. Because in 20 years you’ll all be in amazing places doing amazing things.

As fellow BITSians, friends and mentors scramble the globe in the next couple of months for their Practice Schools, internships, new jobs and Higher ed,  it is only fitting to preserve this token with us.

Source: John’s Blog