Immigrant of the Week: Indra Nooyi, Put the Fizz Back In PepsiCo

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When we are kids we have a wonderful curiosity. But for some reason, as we get older, that curiosity goes away. If you are happy with the knowledge you have, you will likely lose your vitality. So, please, don’t lose that curiosity. Be a lifelong student.- Indra Nooyi

When you think of the chairman or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you probably don’t think of an immigrant woman born in India, where she got her start. However, that is how the story of Indra Nooyi, CEO and Chair of PepsiCo, begins.

Indra Nooyi, A Lifelong Student From the Start

indra-khi-con-nhoImage Source: Trinhthan

Indra was born in Madras (now called Chennai) in the Indian state of Tami Nadu. After completing her studies at Holy Angels Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in Madras, she attended and graduated from Madras Christian College, majoring in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. Then, she attended the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (now, Kolkata) where she was awarded a post graduate diploma in 1977. The following year, she got her MBA at Yale.

The PepsiCo website says:

“Between 1986 and 1990, Mrs. Nooyi worked for Motorola, where she was Vice President and Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning, having joined the company as the business development executive for its automotive and industrial electronic group. Prior to Motorola, she spent six years directing international corporate strategy projects at The Boston Consulting Group. Her clients ranged from textiles and consumer goods companies to retailers and specialty chemicals producers. Mrs. Nooyi began her career in India, where she held product manager positions at Johnson & Johnson and at Mettur Beardsell, Ltd., a textile firm.

“Mrs. Nooyi spent four years as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Strategic Marketing for Asea Brown Boveri, a Zurich-based industrials company. She was part of the top management team responsible for the company’s U.S. business as well as its worldwide industrial businesses, representing about $10 billion of ABB’s $30 billion in global sales.”

Indra and the Pepsi Credo: “Aligning Business to the Needs of the World”

Indra NooyiImage Source: Fortune

Joining PepsiCo in 1994, she worked her way up the corporate ladder” Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning; Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Development; Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; President; finally, her current positions.

“She has directed the company’s global strategy for more than a decade and led its restructuring, including the divestiture of its restaurants into the successful YUM! Brands, Inc., the acquisition of Tropicana and the merger with Quaker Oats that brought the vital Quaker and Gatorade businesses to PepsiCo, the merger with PepsiCo’s anchor bottlers, and the acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, the largest international acquisition in PepsiCo’s history.”

She is number 14 on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, one place behind Michelle Obama.

Since she became CEO in 2006, the company’s global revenue has increased from $40 billion in 2007 to more than $63 billion last year.

However, Nooyi is taking PepsiCo in a direction that makes her sound more like Bernie Sanders than a Yale MBA. In her CEO letter to the public, she wrote:

“Without question, profits are the engine that propels a corporation forward. But the blind pursuit of profit at all costs is untenable. It is essential that we make money the right way. After all, if communities suffer as a result of a company’s actions, those returns are not sustainable.

“Today, a company’s profits are inextricably tied to the prosperity of its consumers, customers, employees, communities and society at large. More than ever before, profitability and sustainability are synonymous.

“Corporations should embrace this new way of doing business. Profitable companies of the 21st century will be those that align the needs of their business with the needs of the world around them.”


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