Shiva Sai is a 2014 Batch Mechanical Engineer from Ganga Hostel. A food maniac, an ardent fan of COD and a machine fanatic, he was also the Secretary of the Mechanical Engineers Association, IIT Madras from 2012-13. On days he’s not busy, he is usually playing badminton or trying his hand at cooking. Currently working at ITC, he describes the nature of his work and his placement experiences.
1. How was your placement experience?
My choice of companies during placements was restricted to the core ones. I already had a PPO from EATON and hence the companies I decided to apply for were Shell, ITC and Cadbury in that order. After completing the application for Shell (which is infinitely painful), the company comes up with a shortlist which didn’t even have a single Mechanical student and a day before the placements, Cadbury decided not to turn up. So, I was left with little choice. I fortunately got shortlisted for the GD, cleared it and had two rounds of interviews which mostly revolved around what I did so far and what I wanted to do. They were looking for people with strong core knowledge and managerial ability which I demonstrated through my projects, interns and PoRs.
2. What are the job profiles offered by ITC ?
The position to which students are recruited is called AUT (Assistant Under Training) in the Operations vertical. Marketing and Finance roles are restricted to MBAs and CAs respectively. During this period, you are on probation for 1 year after which you are posted to the level of Asst. Manager. ITC has numerous divisions ranging from Cigarettes to Personal care to Agarbattis and allotment to the same is on a random basis. The work as such, for the first year, would primarily involve using your core knowledge to solve problems faced by the division. Towards the end, you would be inducted into regular operations.
3. How important are Positions of Responsibility, CGPA, and extra curricular activities?
CGPA, PoRs and extra-curricular activities are parameters that ITC looks at equally. The selection process is as follows:
(a) Each section of your application is objectively graded (range of 1-5) depending on the quality of work
(b) Applications whose sum of points are above a set threshold are shortlisted for GDs.
(c) Depending on your performance in the GD, you are graded again and depending on the cumulative score from the application and GD, another shortlist is drawn.
(d) The interview short-listing also follows a similar procedure, unless you screwed up exceptionally.
So, the easiest way to get in is to have one or two sections of your application showing exceptional ability and the rest above an average level.
4. Why did you choose this area of work?
I essentially wanted to get into a core industry where I could get a chance to work on the shop floor. Over the past 100 years, ITC has built several state of the art factories with best in class machines and high end automation. It is very rare that you get a chance to work in such places while getting paid so much. Fortunately or unfortunately, I got posted to the Matches and Agarbatti division where hardly any machines are used.
5. Simply put, what does your work involve doing?
Getting to specifics, agarbatti manufacture in India is reserved for the small scale sector and hence companies like ITC cannot directly manufacture them. So, we resort to 3rd party manufacturing and market the finished good, at least on paper. In practice, even the smallest of activities ranging from raw material procurement to finished goods dispatch is controlled by us. The industry as such hasn’t evolved much scientifically. The practices established decades back are still followed today without knowing why quality control across the industry is pathetic.
Presently, my work at the division is in two broad categories –
(i) Identify and prioritize parameters affecting quality through statistical methods like design of experiments (since scientific principles are non-existent)
(ii) Design and develop automated machinery to increase productivity and improve quality.
6. How has your perception of ITC change from before the placement to within the company ?
(a) My initial perception of all FMCG companies was that there was absolutely no core engineering work done there and supply chain was the only job profile offered. This was the reason why I choose not to apply for their internships. Even during placements, I was quite apprehensive with regard to the work profile but the interviewers clearly outlined the different verticals in the organization. Now I’ve realized that core engineering forms an integral part of the organization.
(b) I had been told that work at ITC would be infinitely painful and that there would be hardly any free time. This has not really been the case with me, at least until now. There were days when I had to work from 8 in the morning to 10 in the night and there were days when I did nothing but browse 9gag.
(c) Finally, I thought all of the 17.17 lakhs would come into my pocket and that there would be year on year increments. But after all the deductions and taxes, you earn a little over a lakh per month There are a few perks like tour stay at ITC owned hotels which make up for it though. Pay revisions also take place only once in three years.
7. What advice would you give to students sitting for placements ?
(i) Brush up all your basics
(ii) Be thorough with the projects listed in your resume, not only in terms of what you have done, but also in terms of the impact that your work had and if possible, how the learnings could be used in the company you are sitting for.
(iii) Try concentrating decently well on your PORs and extra-curricular activities.
8. How has Insti helped you with your work ?
One of the major reasons I could manage securing a job at ITC is the 5 years I spent at IITM. I learnt the basics of core engineering here through the various courses and projects and the same have helped me to a great extent in my day to day activities. My PORs have helped me develop time and people management skills which play a crucial role at work in ITC. The mock interviews and GD sessions help before the placement season helped me fine tune my soft skills to communicate effectively. The ability to learn quickly and adapt to changes is something that night outs before quizzes have taught me and the same is greatly admired here. Finally, there is always the IITian tag which can get a lot of doors opened easily, though sometimes leading to comments like “You are an IITian, you should be knowing everything” when you say you don’t know where to find a worm hole.