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Technology Equity: Ashish Chauhan

Sneha Jha | May 20, 2014
Ashish Chauhan is a man of many talents. In his 22-year career, he has been the CIO of Reliance Industries, run the same company's corporate communications department, started his own entrepreneurial venture, and even managed an Indian Premier League team. Today, he is the CEO of BSE, one of the largest exchanges in the world. Chauhan's motto in life is to be humble and nimble. It's a philosophy that's served him well. It also helps that he reads 35 magazines a week and 18 newspapers a day. Now, as the CEO of Asia's oldest stock exchange, Chauhan is faced with the task of reviving the bourse.

CIO: A challenge for Indian bourses is getting more people to invest in stocks. How are you tackling that?

Ashish Chauhan:Reach or distribution was indeed a challenge. But today, we are present in 2,000 cities. The second challenge was the cost of investment, which used to be large. But now that's been optimized because of automation, mobile, and real-time information through TV and the Internet. That's another issue resolved. The third challenge are competing products in insurance, banks deposits and chitfunds. Some bad products like chitfunds are better marketed in mofussil areas where we don't have a reach.

Even banks are not doing very well in those areas. In the last few years, we've learnt that we need to be proactive about showing people the benefits of investing in financial markets. Each asset class like gold, silver, or real estate has a cycle. First the prices go up, then they plateau or they go down. In the last 5-6 years, gold, silver and real estate have given good returns but the stock market hasn't. So people are not investing in the stock markets. But even if gold went up five times in the last few years, it won't always be the case. As stock markets pick up, they will woo more investors.

CIO: What is your ask of Kersi Tavadia, the CIO at BSE?

Ashish Chauhan:Our business is IT enabled. Technology helps us manage a hugely complex business framework. We do not have any physical product. We don't produce anything except trust and we do that through IT. We have to ensure that our technology frameworks keep the entire trade going. I want Kersi to ensure that the markets never stop. That is the most critical part of our business because we offer a time-critical service to our users. Second, is to continue to innovate in a way that BSE is considered a leader in the industry.

CIO: Given you're a former CIO, is it easier for Kersi to justify technology investments?

Ashish Chauhan:Kersi and I have known each other for a long time. Both of us have been a part of the same industry for quite some time. We understand the nuances of the financial markets and the levers of business growth. We know how to achieve technological superiority at a low cost. Both of us know how to derive value from a low-cost technology framework. Kersi knows how fast our business moves and how fast the margins are getting squeezed. Our chairman, S. Ramadorai himself, is a technology wizard. He set up TCS. All three of us have worked in technology for practically whole of our lives. We know where the shoe pinches and how to take care of it. What career advice do you have for CIOs? In today's day and age, career tracks are changing rapidly. There is no single career path that is going to be available in the future. If you stay in a single role for long, your career will stagnate. You have to be ready to accept new challenges. And you have to be humble and nimble. A CIO should not think that because they have breadth in experience in IT, they should remain in IT. You can't afford to think that way. Grab opportunities that come your way. You have to understand the levers of your business and understand what makes the business tick.


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