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Alumni Profile

Sona Chawla

Sona Chawla, SM ’94

President, E-Commerce, Walgreens

  • First e-commerce executive at Walgreens
  • Key executive at Wells Fargo during the early years of online banking
  • Married to Adil Daruwala, MBA ’96

The corner drug store may have gone corporate, but it isn’t going away. Not Walgreens, anyway.

After 110 years, the largest drugstore chain in the country isn’t about to evolve into only Internet sales and services, but it does intend to be a leader online.

“At the end of the day, we all differentiate in our own unique way,” says Sona Chawla, president for e-commerce at the Deerfield, Ill.-based drugstore. “And we’ve already got this incredible asset. People are not going to stop going into the stores.”

“One of the reasons I exist is we will see things move (online), and the company certainly recognizes that there will be a shift,” she said. “And the belief is that having the combination is going to be better.”

Chawla, who moved to the United States from India at 18, is the first e-commerce executive at Walgreens. She joined the company in 2008 with “a white sheet of paper to define what (e-commerce) meant.”

What she decided was to use Walgreens’ astounding market penetration—two-thirds of Americans live within three miles of a store—to build an online brand that enhances and complements the in-store experience. That means scheduling prescription refills through a bottle-scanning smartphone app. It means online components for photo and medical services, as well as online shopping.

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