Piyush Chowhan, CIO, Panda Retail: Leadership positions demand tough decisions

With more than two decades of experience working in global consumer and retail companies, Piyush Chowhan is passionate for transforming businesses by leveraging technology. Currently the CIO of Saudi Arabia-based Panda Retail Company, he’s focused on building innovative digital strategies to maximize today’s opportunities and prepare the organization for future disruptions.

In a free-wheeling discussion with CIO.com, he throws light on his business-technology journey and how he delivers results and creates value across organizations.

How did you get into technology?  

Chowhan: I’m a retail and consumer technology evangelist who loves to enable enterprise transformation. This journey of over two decades includes working with digital and business teams across the globe with progressive retailers like Walmart, Tesco, Target, Arvind Group, Lulu Hypermarket, and Panda Retail. I was always fascinated by the power of technology and its impact on organizations that attracted me to work with these progressive companies to create business value. I’ve been a part of large transformation programs, which has kept me motivated to see what is being created in terms of digital and technology adoption.

What has been your greatest career achievement so far? 

Chowhan: Every career experience has its own importance, and every day is a new challenge. I cherish each moment of my career that’s helped me use my skills and knowledge to impart digital transformation in large enterprises. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction when the team that’s worked with me shows its appreciation.

As a CIO, what was the toughest decision you took? Why does it qualify as the toughest, and what was the outcome of the decision? 

Chowhan: Leadership positions in the area of digital transformation are always posed with challenges that demand tough decisions. While at it, I have taken several such decisions such as legacy applications decommissioning and layoffs of redundant technology resources. I believe in strong collaboration for key strategic decisions. This has helped me build commitment amongst team members and for them to stand against any outcomes.

Describe a situation where you were part of a program or project that didn’t result in the desired outcomes? 

Chowhan: I’ve always believed that life is about learning from failures. Chaos report has published data that about 70% of projects don’t meet their desired objectives. There are lots of projects that didn’t meet their objectives. I took responsibility to learn and deliver better the next time around. Incrementality, agile processes help reduce such failures so I’ve implemented an agile mindset across all my teams, which help us to fail fast and learn fast to avoid large scale damage.

As an expat CIO, what lessons have learned in business and technology about looking to work in different geographies? 

Chowhan: I love to work with people of different cultures and geographies. I’ve worked in large global setups in various continents with very different styles of leadership. The core outcomes are the same globally, but the management styles are very different. I had to adapt to gel with the local culture.

How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career? 

Chowhan: Learn at every step and share the joy. This has been my mantra for success. If you share your success with others, it multiplies many times over.

What top three business-technology trends are reshaping the retail sector?   

Chowhan: The top technology trends in retail include:  

Frictionless Retail: The technology around removing checkout-less stores is going to become a reality in the next few years, opening huge opportunities.

Algorithmic retail: Machine learning will take a very large part of decision making in retail, which will be aided by AI/ML solutions.

Generative Retail: The ability for machines to interact with humans will help to create a CX that will be very different from what we see today.

Digital Transformation, Retail Industry