Leader in tech Anshu Bhardwaj, ’08, is changing the way that Walmart leverages and shares its technology.
- September 28, 2023
Anshu Bhardwaj, ’08, never thought she’d go into tech—yet this year, WomenTech Network named her one of the 100 Women in Tech Leaders to Watch in 2023, praising her “leadership in driving innovation, growth and transformation.”
She earned that accolade through her work first at Sam’s Club, Walmart’s membership-only warehouse superstore, where she would become chief product officer of SamsClub.com. There, Bhardwaj helped lead the introduction of Scan & Go technology, which grew into a billions-plus revenue product that members love.
Bhardwaj is now senior vice president and COO of Walmart global technology, helping to oversee and coordinate technology for all business entities of Walmart, including Walmart US, Walmart International, and Sam’s Club. She also founded Walmart Commerce Technologies, a SaaS startup within Walmart that offers businesses of all sizes retail solutions to help transform and grow their operations, distributing their suite of products through a recent deal with Salesforce.
She helps oversee more than 25,000 software engineers, data scientists, tech strategists, and other employees pushing technological transformation for a traditionally brick-and-mortar business that has evolved into an omnichannel retailer capable of meeting customers where they are.
As a kid growing up in Delhi, I changed my job aspirations often—from police officer to fighter pilot to IAS officer. After discovering and falling in love with mathematics, in college, I seized on the newly opened economy in India, took a contrarian approach, and focused on retail at the National Institute of Fashion Technology. At one of the most storied companies in India, textile manufacturer Arvind, I was so impressed with how the CFO enabled the business to thrive that I decided: that’s who I want to become. After getting married, I moved to the United States and chose to pursue an MBA with a concentration in finance.
Being at Booth grounded me in first principles. There was so much rigor in the education, and professors really took a lot of interest in making sure students got what they needed. I also took full advantage of the student groups. The one that had the biggest impact was the South Asia Business Group, where I was conference co-organizer for the India Business Conference. I had roles at Bear Stearns and worked at Target post-MBA before landing in the Bay Area at Walmart.
I was hired by Walmart to build out a path to profitability on strategic projects, but soon moved to the strategy team, where I took on some big, hairy challenges, such as looking at what international markets we wanted to enter. That’s where I used a lot of things I learned from Booth, narrowing down the entire universe of where Walmart could play. India was one market we actually ended up entering.
One of the things still fully ingrained in my head from Booth: start with a customer problem statement that you are trying to solve. For example, no one wants to stand in line with a huge basket—or more simply, no one wants to stand in line at all. So while I was chief product officer at SamsClub.com, we developed Scan & Go, where you scan everything on the app as you go through the store, pay on the app, and you are done. No checkout lines—you just show your receipt as you walk out. At the time, it was the fastest launch in the history of Walmart, and such a big hit. The Net Promoter Score, a measure of customer loyalty, was more than 90 out of 100 on it, which is just about the Holy Grail.
“One of the things still fully ingrained in my head from Booth: start with a customer problem statement that you are trying to solve.”
Think of Walmart as 17 companies combined into one. We sell products, but we are also our own cloud provider, health company, financial services firm, sourcing firm, tech firm. Prior to 2019, we had an engineering leader embedded in each specific business but didn’t have a central tech point of view. That’s when Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO, decided to make the chief technology officer a direct report and consolidate all the technology, and Walmart global technology came into being.
My advice to anyone—find a way to bring your passions to your job. For me, it’s about enabling and empowering others. Retail is an unforgiving business, and technology amplifies the divide between large, well-established retailers and the rest. It’s a massive barrier to success. That problem statement led to the idea of making our technology available to other companies.
The idea is for Walmart to become a retail operating system to facilitate commerce for any business. We started with Store Assist, a product that helps a retailer efficiently use their real-estate base for fulfilling customer orders. For example, if you want to pick up something at a store, it orchestrates what store, what product, what aisle, when you need to pick it up, and more. We’ve already signed a big retailer in the United Kingdom, and have a few others in the pipeline.
I have two young kids, eight and five, so work and family consume much of my time. I really like to bring together large groups of people to celebrate the Indian culture, so that my kids feel surrounded by it even though they are not in India. And we like traveling as a family. Just in the past six months, we spent time in Seattle, London, and India, all of which the kids loved.
Being named to the 100 Women in Tech Leaders to Watch was a big surprise. When I look at some of the people on that list, such as Wayfair chief technology officer Fiona Tan or Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, both of whom I know and hold in high esteem, I don’t think of myself in the same league! I was obviously thrilled to be recognized in that way. The message it sends is that if you are working hard, being curious, bringing your whole self to work, and constantly learning, you can do anything.