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Startups: Once bitten, companies hiring at IITs fight shy of startup tag

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MUMBAI: Startups are facing an identity crisis. A year after the IITs blacklisted 20-odd young businesses and barred them from participating in annual placements, these companies are shying away from the startup tag.

Placement officers across the IITs are stating that even freshly founded companies are clarifying to the institutes that they can at best be termed as “senior startups”. Every company desirous of participating in the placement process has to fill a job notification form and declare whether it is a startup or not.

“Many of them are just not declaring the fact that they are startups. A few startups even tried convincing us that they are not startups,” said Kaustubh Mohanty, convener, all-IIT placement committee.

At some of the IITs, the firms are reworking the initial offer made for a better slot. “After we give them a slot, the date and time to come, many up their offer in terms of remuneration for a better slot,” said a placement team member from IIT Kanpur.

While the number of startups coming to the IITs has reduced, students are excited about Cohesity, which will participate for the first time. As annual compensation, the firm is offering Rs 25 lakh. Annual compensation has gone up by 10-15%, in a way signaling to the best brains of India and to the IIT authorities that there is more stability in the startup world.

“We have not asked companies this year if they are startups or not. Frankly, we do not get a yes even from the ones that are new companies,” said a placement officer from IIT Delhi. Every campus has 30-35% fewer startups this year as compared to 2015, when there was a rush of new companies flush with funds that wanted to pick engineering talent from the IITs.

Later, in the 2016 edition of placements, the IIT blacklisted 20 firms that had in the previous year given offer letters to students, but deferred joining dates or withdrew them, leaving several students anxious. While the ban has been lifted, these companies have not been given good slots in the upcoming placement process.

“Many of the companies don’t exist anymore. The ones that are still around and have come back to the campus for placements, we have not given them enticing slots. Also, students have been forewarned about their placement history,” said a placement officer.

While the smaller IITs have not invited many of the startups that applied, the older institutes with large student strengths have more young companies on their placement list. The largest number of startups is probably going to be at IIT Bombay, but again the firms are shy of the tag. “Students gauge the companies before putting down their preference. While some feel that one gets ownership of work in a startup, others want to join a stable company,” said a placement team member at the Powai campus.

Updated: November 27, 2017 — 12:08 pm

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