Naresh Lal, 23, had a dream. In 2008 he enrolled in an obscure engineering college in Indore where he paid an annual fee of Rs 4.5 lakh for a four-year course. Lal was the first in the family to go to college. “My father was happy that I’d be a software engineer and get a good job at one of the IT firms,” says Lal.
It didn’t quite work out that way. After graduating last year, Lal did not land a job for months. A move to Bangalore the cradle of software services followed, but the job didn’t. Sporadically he would get leads of a recruitment drive from his friends and they would all flock to the IT firm’s campus. “There would be a long line of 3,000-4,000 people,” he says. Overwhelmed, companies would have little option but to call in just a fraction of that number for the interview, and ask the others to go.
In February this year, Lal moved out of Bangalore to Bhopal where he joined a small IT company. “They said they will start paying after three months,” he says. Five months of working without pay wore Lal down, who early this month returned to Indore. “I had thought after my college I will ease my father’s burden. I feel terrible that I am myself a burden today.”
Lal (whose name has been changed as he did not want to reveal his identity) is not alone. Some 500 engineers graduate out of his college every year. Indore alone has roughly 150 such colleges. Across India, close to 17.6 lakh engineers graduated from 3,500-odd engineering colleges in 2012-13. Beyond the 2 lakh who would have passed from Tier I and II institutions, virtually all of the remaining may well be staring at a predicament similar to that of Lal.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my career since my early Infosys days,” says TV Mohandas Pai, who joined the IT services giant in 1994, and is now chairman at Manipal Global Education. “Nobody is hiring IT, manufacturing, infrastructure, construction, government…nobody. Jobseekers are despondent. They are losing hope.”