Conduent CEO Ashok Vemuri will join Kroger’s Board of Directors, the retailer announced last week. He will stand for election at the annual shareholder meeting in June.
The technology veteran joined Conduent, a digital services company that works with businesses and government, in 2016 afters it separated from Xerox. He previously lead technology consulting firm Capgemini, then known as IGATE Corporation, and held a variety of positions at Infosys for 14 years.
"As we enter our second year of implementing Restock Kroger, Ashok's deep experience leading several digital and technology services companies will be a tremendous asset to Kroger's board of directors,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, in a statement.
As part of the Restock initiative, Kroger has invested more than $1 billion since 2017 in digital and delivery infrastructure, Progressive Grocer reported. Vemuri brings more than two decades of experience in technology to the grocer's board that could prove useful in providing industry connections and insight as Restock Kroger moves into its next phase.
In the new online grocery frontier, Kroger has taken necessary and dynamic steps to keep pace with the likes of Walmart and Amazon — strategic choices that investors believe will pay off in the long term, even if recent profits suffer slightly. Vemuri reportedly built Conduent into a trusted resource for businesses within months of its spin off from Xerox. His knowledge of scalability will no doubt benefit Kroger’s transition to a tech-forward grocer with a traditional retail foundation.
Kroger has expanded takeaway offerings, notably through the acquisition of meal kit company Home Chef, improved in-store experiences using data-based personalization and a diversified product mix with regional and private-label goods. It's also signed an exclusive agreement with Ocado that will bring the British e-grocer’s automated fulfillment capabilities to the U.S., expanded its same-day delivery service through Instacart and invested in its same-day click and collect service, known as Clicklist.
In perhaps its grandest tech move, Kroger remains committed to its home town of Cincinnati. Last June, the city approved Kroger’s plan to build a digital headquarters downtown, which will house more than 1,000 workers by 2021, according to the Cincinnati Business Journal.
“Kroger is creating a seamless shopping environment so customers can choose how to engage with us, both in-store and online, because the future of retail will include both physical and digital experiences,” Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, told the business publication.
Kroger’s tech-forward choices, which many believe to be essential for success in the increasingly online marketplace, have attracted the attention of the tech industry. Computerworld named Kroger to its list of the Top 100 Best Places to Work in information technology, according to Winsight Grocery Business – the only retailer to make the list.
Kroger is aware of the changes quickly impacting the grocery space, especially when it comes to the use of technology. Vemuri's experience no doubt will come in handy as the grocer looks for new partnerships and places to invest its money as it battles tech-savy competitors such as Amazon, Instacart and Walmart. Kroger not only is investing in its e-commerce capabilities as consumers purchase more of their groceries online but automating its supply chain, such as through its Ocado investment, and assessing how best to use and profit from the data it collects. In a business with razor-sharp margins and a wide-variety of technology to chose from, Vemuri could help Kroger sharpen its investment focus and ensure it is using its dollars wisely.