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Online Retailers Step Up MBA Hiring For India Expansion

The biggest e-commerce companies have stepped up their business school recruiting, as groups gear up to expand in the last big online market.

By  Seb Murray

Wed Aug 13 2014

The biggest e-commerce companies have stepped up their hiring of MBAs, as they gear up for rapid expansion in an industry that observers say is poised to boom in the coming years.

Indian’s e-retail market is forecast to enjoy sales of $32 billion by 2020, which would rival China, the biggest e-commerce player by sales growth this year. India’s internet users are also predicted to surge to 600 million in numbers in the same period, creating a huge customer base.

The big e-commerce giants have raised substantial funds to tap into this emerging industry, and are poised to fight for market share.

Fipkart, founded by two IIT graduates, last month raised $1 billion in new equity for expansion and improvements. A day later, Amazon, which launched in India last year, announced that it had raised another $2 billion to invest in the country. eBay-backed Snapdeal, another e-commerce upstart, is expected to raise funds in the coming months to remain competitive.

As such, rapid expansion will open up huge job opportunities, agrees Professor Deepa Mani from the information systems group at the Indian School of Business.

“Hiring by e-commerce firms and start-ups have seen a rapid increase over the last couple of years,” he said. “Companies are seeking MBAs who can integrate cutting edge technologies with traditional business functions such as marketing and finance,” he added.

Smaller e-commerce firms have also raised capital or received investment to expand. Jabong.com raised $100 million in February this year, and Pepperfry.com raised $15 million in May.

Professor Deepa added that e-commerce start-ups had increased hiring at the business school by 50% compared to a year earlier. But Technopak, a New-Delhi-based retail consultancy, said that funding for start-ups has dried up in the past year, with investors focusing on larger companies.

But there are also thought to be job opportunities in technology consulting, which dominated 40% of total consulting positions taken by ISB’s MBA class.

India’s e-commerce industry is smaller than China, which has seen 64% growth in sales this year, but sales of goods over the internet, currently at $2.3 billion, is projected to grow rapidly, according Technopak.

It is thought that India’s expensive real estate prices are giving e-commerce firms an advantage over traditional retailers, and home deliveries have grown in popularity within India’s congested urban centres. Flipkart and Snapdeal say the proportion of customers accessing their sites via mobiles has increased from less than 10% last year to more than 50% today.

There are already signs that hiring at these large firms has started to increase. ISB said that 300 job offers were made by 53 technology companies – the biggest hiring sector – last year, led by Amazon and Apple. About 345 of the MBA’s 741 total employment offers were for jobs based in India.

The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore – the country’s third highest-ranked business school – announced that it saw major e-commerce companies hire their 2014 graduating class.

Amazon made 11 job offers and led the technology recruiting, the school said, while Flipkart, Jabong and Yepme were the biggest hirers in the e-commerce space.

E-commerce companies also stepped up their recruitment for the school’s summer internship season. The latest figures show that big players took on MBAs, including Amazon with 12 job offers, while Flipkart made 10 offers for a range of different positions.

At the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad it was a similar story. The leading business school said students showed a keen interest in taking up positions in e-commerce companies, which hired about 7% of the class.

These companies were particularly keen to hire MBAs for sales and marketing roles. The school said: “E-commerce was represented by a variety of companies such as Flipkart, Ebay, Valyoo, and first time recruiters such as CommonFloor.”

About 27% of the class accepted summer internships in e-commerce and IT firms.

E-commerce companies have also stepped up hiring across Europe. At Oxford’s Saïd Business School, the firm is the top recruiter, and at London Business School last year, Amazon recruited more students than any of the big investment banks.

In this year’s career outlook report, HEC Paris, the leading French business school, said: “Amazon has been a significant recruiter from the program since 2011, and is likely to be our top recruiter for the graduating class of 2014.”

Specialist e-commerce firms are not the only ones targeting India’s emerging market.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, launched a pilot e-commerce platform last month. The American giant operates in 20 stores in India, and is testing the e-commerce pilot in Lucknow and Hyderabad.

It is reported that large Indian conglomerates involved in traditional retailing are planning to go viral to expand, including Reliance Industries and Tata Group.

Miriam Park, Amazon's director of university recruiting, said that the company plans to hire hundreds of MBAs this year, building on an increase every year for the past five years.

“We recruit top talent wherever it may be around the world,” Miriam said, and added that MBAs are able to move across Amazon’s businesses throughout their career.

An 11 to 12 week internship program is also offered to MBAs at the world’s largest e-commerce group, which seeds its campus hiring.

“We see MBAs thriving at Amazon because they love taking ownership of big projects and solving hard problems for our customers,” said Miriam.

“We don’t disclose specific numbers, but hire in the hundreds globally. We see them adding long-term value across Amazon,” she added.