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A crore but no home to take it to

April 5: Office starts at 8 am and ends at 2 am. You are sleepy and hungry most of the time but can’t afford a mistake ' the boss is watching and so are colleagues who want your job or are plain jealous.

You are expected to be up-to-date on everything related to the industry and always meet deadlines.

Before the boss leaves ' at 9 pm ' he gives you extra work that may keep you in office the whole night, or force you to miss your weekly off.

A job that sucks' Yet, it could be the plum placement that made headlines and inspired a few thousand more to sit for CAT next year.

The placement race at the country’s B-schools scaled the Rs 1-crore peak today with the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, trumping the IIMs, whose Bangalore campus was preening the other day over Gaurav Agarwal bagging a Rs 84-lakh ($193,000) overseas offer.

ISB announced that an unnamed IT firm had offered a graduate the highest starting salary ever for an Indian: $233,800 (Rs 1.04 crore).

The best placement offers ' far beyond anything imaginable even 10 years ago ' now regularly make headlines and even prompt extortion demands. Yet, after the hoopla has died down, life is not always a breeze for the starry-eyed young manager.

“Your ability to say ‘no’ (to extra work) reduces. You have to deliver many times what you’re paid,” a management executive said. And even the sack, however unthinkable, can lurk.

“You must outperform yourself constantly. A plateau in the performance graph might push an executive to the bottom of the group. And in many top companies, the bottom five per cent aren’t really required,” the executive said.

IIM faculty are worried about the toll the stress takes on their graduates, though they are reluctant to use the word “burnout”.

“It’s a very hectic life. Sometimes they work 18 hours a day without their weekly off,” Prof. Errol D’ Souza of IIM Ahmedabad said.

“The jobs are so demanding that they are sometimes affected psychologically,” agreed his colleague, Prof. Ramesh Bhat. “They have to sit at their desk for hours and take prompt decisions, always under tremendous pressure. That’s why they switch jobs so frequently ' they hardly stay on for more than two years.”

Savita Mahajan, deputy dean of post-graduate courses at the ISB, said the stress levels are higher in India than in the West. “Many Indian managers work through the week without a break. In the West, everybody stops working on Friday evening till Monday morning.”

But the graduates themselves are upbeat.

“Stress and challenges are part of assignments,” and can be overcome if you are organised and have done your home work, felt ISB graduate Swati Singh, 26, a former merchant navy executive who has bagged a job with real estate giant Tishman Speyer.

IIM sources added that the hype over salaries that attract thousands of students to B-schools could be misleading. The average salaries are far lower ' about 9 to 10 lakh even in the top-tier institutes, and this means many graduates get far less than even this amount.

Besides, these sums reflect the cost to company ' after the deductions, the average young manager may be taking home about Rs 50,000-60,000 a month.

Anyway, from next year, the IIMs at Bangalore and Ahmedabad will not reveal the highest offers. One reason is the extortion demand the family of a graduate received.

It’s not always the young graduate from a premier B-school, starting out with the best offer, who wins the race, though.

A recent survey among the highest-paid executives in leading companies showed that only one out of three had an MBA. Of the MBAs, only half were from the top 10 B-schools.

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