Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi
Woman of Many Roles

indra-nooriWhile studying in Connecticut, she worked as a receptionist from midnight to sunrise and struggled to put together $50 to buy herself a western suit for her first job interview. She presently runs the fourth largest food and beverage company in the world, PepsiCo, as their first female chief executive officer. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, one of the highest-ranking woman in corporate America, was born on October 28, 1955, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu in India. In 2010, Forbes named her as one of the most powerful women in the world.

She has been herself and has never tried to change her basic beliefs. She derived strength from her traditions and believed in who she was. As she says, “I am so secure in myself. I don’t have to be an American to play in the corporate life.” Back in the era of conservative Indian society, she joined an all-girls’ cricket team. She even played guitar in an all-female rock band while studying at Madras Christian College. After earning her undergraduate degree, she enrolled herself in the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (now Kolkata).

After two years of work with Johnson & Johnson and Mettur Beardsell in India, she left India and went to America in 1978 to pursue a management degree from the prestigious Yale Graduate School of Management.

She spent six years directing international corporate strategy projects at the Boston Consulting Group. Six years later in 1986, she joined Motorola as vice-president and director of corporate strategy & planning. Later, she moved to Asea Brown Boveri in 1990 and spent four years as vice-president. She was a part of the top management team responsible for the company’s US business as well as its worldwide industrial business, generating about one-third of ABB’s $30 billion in global sales.

Indra Nooyi was 44 when she joined PepsiCo in 1994. At that time, she also had an offer from General Electric, one of the world’s largest companies. The Pepsi CEO Wayne Calloway, in an attempt to lure her, told her, “GE is probably the finest company in the world. But I have a need for someone like you and I would make PepsiCo a special place for you,” and Indra agreed.

With hard work and determination, she gradually made her way up the ladder to become President and Chief Financial Officer of PepsiCo. She was also appointed as a member of board of directors of PepsiCo Inc in 2001.

Ever since, there has been no turning back for her. She has been involved in every major strategic decision PepsiCo has made in the last few years. From spinning off PepsiCo’s fast food chain in 1997 to acquiring Tropicana in 1998 and the USD 13 billion move to acquire Quaker Oats, she has been instrumental in driving the organisation. However, Indra attributes a lot of Pepsi’s success to its employees. She believes that a company remains great when there is a strong competitor.

Indra Nooyi has combined the high-octane energy of her job with the calm, collected conduct required to manage the equally central responsibility of a mother and a wife. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Fairfax County, Connecticut. When Nooyi started at Pepsi more than a decade ago, the company had just restructured its beverage division and was still feeling the pains of eroding brand equity. A casual walk through any supermarket or convenience store makes one witness the spectacular outreach of Pepsi products and Nooyi’s hard work.