Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo
Born in Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Indra Nooyi is perhaps one of the most powerful women in the world. Nooyi was raised in a Tamil-speaking family in Chennai, where she completed her schooling and received her bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics from Madras Christian College in 1974. After finishing her MBA from Indian Institute of Management (Calcutta), she joined Johnson & Johnson, where she served in various capacities. Following a brief spell with Mettur Beardsell (a textile firm), she was admitted to Yale School of Management for a master’s degree in Public and Private Management.
Whilst at Yale, Nooyi worked as an intern for Booz Allen Hamilton. Upon finishing her program, she joined Boston Consulting Group as a strategy consultant. She attributes her inclination to ‘inductive thinking’ to her time at BCG. As a strategy consultant, she was required to carefully consider all possible parameters. She describes how she developed a tendency to not only assess projections in micro terms, as well to step back and put into context the broader environment and its ever-changing dynamics.
This was the ideal foundation for her future career. It provided her with an escalated understanding of business analysis and risks. Between 1986 and 1990, she worked for Motorola as Vice President and Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning, having initially joined as the business development executive for its automotive and industrial electronic group. She then moved onto a Zurich-based industrials company, Asea Brown Boveri, as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Strategic Marketing. As a part of the top management team, she oversaw the company’s US business as well as their global industrial base. Her tenure at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri propelled her further in the business world and earned her a reputation of a ‘true visionary’. Having been responsible for $10 million of the company’s $30 million worldwide sales and turning down an opportunity to work at General Electric, Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994.
Since, Nooyi has served in various capacities in the PepsiCo hierarchy. She started as the Senior Vice President (Strategic Planning) and is now the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson. Some of her early endeavors involved calculated, yet extensive restructuring of the company. The divestiture of PepsiCo’s restaurants into YUM! Brands, Inc., the acquisition of Tropicana and the merger with Quaker Oats, which brought the highly profitable Quaker and Gatorade businesses to PepsiCo, are majorly attributed to her. Moreover, she led the force behind the acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, one of the two largest Russian dairy-goods companies specializing in juices and leading the market in baby foods. This marked PepsiCo’s biggest international acquisition ever.
But perhaps more importantly, Nooyi acknowledges and works towards defeating obesity. In various speeches she has openly criticized her industry for creating “one of the world’s biggest public health challenges”, which has prompted the reclassification of PepsiCo’s products into three broad categories – “fun for you” (potato chips, sodas), “better for you” (diet and low-fat versions of snacks and sodas), and “good for you” (oatmeal and dairy products). By shifting resources from “fun for you” into healthier alternatives, Nooyi has vowed to improve quality and minimize health impediments of even the “fun” products. She is the chief architect of ‘Performance with Purpose’, PepsiCo’s promise to do what’s right for the business by doing what’s right for the planet and its people. Nooyi’s PepsiCo is forcing the transformation of the industry, with its impressive portfolio of over 20 brands generating $1 billion in annual retail sales and $63 billion in annual net revenue, coercing other major players to positively react and admit to this much needed shift.
Apart from serving on the PepsiCo’s Board of Directors, Nooyi is an active board member of the US-China Business Council, US-India Business Council, Catalyst, The Consumer Goods Forum and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is involved with the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was recently appointed to the US-India CEO Forum by the Obama administration.
Nooyi’s leadership and bold decision-making has constantly earned her proud recognitions. She has regularly appeared on Fortune magazine’s ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ (2006-2010) and Forbes ‘World 100 Most Powerful Women’ (2008-2014). In 2008, the US News & World report named Nooyi one of ‘America’s Best Leaders’ and the following year the ‘CEO of the Year’ by Global Supply Chain Leaders Group. Institutional Investor called her the ‘Best CEO’ as per the All-America Executive Team survey (2008-2011). And in 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award from the Indian government.
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