"Our technological prowess will be a driver of customer experience"

Manish Choksi, President - International IT, HR and Chemicals at Asian Paints Limited talks to CIO&Leader on being a practical CIO and the impact of technology at Asian Paints

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Manish Choksi, President - International IT, HR and Chemicals at Asian Paints Limited talks to CIO&Leader on being a practical CIO and the impact of technology at Asian Paints. Here are the excerpts:

What does it take to be a practical CIO?

For me to be successful, I had to understand the business properly. The good thing was I had experienced some business stints prior to becoming a CIO. Growth and innovation are primary drivers for how IT should implement projects, initiatives and enable competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

Which are the two most successful technology implementations that you have done for Asian Paints?

Asian Paints, in the late 90s, was made up of distributed platforms. One of the business challenges was we had 56 days of finished goods inventory. That was infact both a challenge and an opportunity. That was the genesis of the first initiative that I took, which was the implementation of supply chain management platform. We worked over 6 months to develop the business case. My IT budget was about INR 75 lakhs. We almost went to the board for INR 8 crores. However, the business case was quite compelling and payback was phenomenal. Thankfully, the board agreed to fund the initiative. As we got into the initiative (6 to 8 months in it), we realized that the quality of data getting into the platform and the quality of data that the company was working with from transactional point of view was suspect. We went live with the supply chain implementation somewhere around October 2000 and the IT implementation sometime thereafter, in March 2001. By March 2003, we had released INR 150 crores in cash by reducing the inventory to 35-36 days period. So it was a financial and transformation success. This personally gave me an insight into how change management could be done. Today, we have embarked on a new business strategy: Move from 'paint' to 'decor'. Our aim is to build a 'decor' powerhouse company, servicing customers across multiple channels, leveraging the power of the physical needs we have built over 75 years of existence coupled with the technological prowess which we can bring into today's customer experience. 

How have technologies like IoT and Machine Learning assisted your day-to-day business processes?

We realized that our consumer experience across human and digital touch-points were not seamless. So we revamped the CRM platform and looked at the base platform of ERP. We tried to use those as the backbone for our transformation. Hence, we envisioned the future, reviewed the changes we didn't make and the ways IT can support. 

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