Indra K. Nooyi era ends as PepsiCo CEO

She helped raise company revenues but, more importantly, left an enduring legacy


indica News Bureau


When India-born Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi was appointed CEO of PepsiCo, America’s second largest food and beverage company; she became not just the first woman to be elected but also a legendary figure who boosted company revenues by 80 percent.

In a letter dated October 2, 2018, to her associates, Nooyi, who stepped down October 3, said she sought a clear, compelling vision for what people want to accomplish.

“Focus on the short-term and the long-term,” she wrote. “Find teammates who can help execute your vision and empower them to succeed. When someone gives you feedback, assume positive intent. And be lifelong students.”

However, she also expressed her regrets about not giving more priority to her family.

“I’ve been blessed with an amazing career, but if I’m being honest, there have been moments I wish I’d spent more time with my children and family,” she wrote.

Leading with the ‘Performance with Purpose,’ Nooyi, 62, who served for 12 years as CEO of PepsiCo, in a career of 24 years with the company, will remain chairman until early 2019. The new CEO is Ramon Laguart, 54.

Nooyi was ranked No.4 in Forbes magazine’s list 100 most powerful women in the world.

According to a PepsiCo statement, the company generated more than $63 billion in net revenue in 2017, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

“I’m incredibly proud of all we’ve done over the past 12 years to advance the interest of our stakeholders in the communities we serve,” Nooyi wrote in her letter. “What I admire about our global team is an incredible drive to compete- to be the best, to remain the best,” the Indian-born American executive said on Twitter announcing her departure from PepsiCo.”

Nooyi was born in a South Indian middle-class family on October 28, 1955 in Tamil Nadu, India. Her father worked at the State Bank of Hyderabad and her grandfather was a district judge. After completing her schooling at Holy Angels school in Chennai and receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics from Madras Christian College in 1974, she went to earn a master’s degree in marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Faculties there have described Nooyi as a very mediocre student.

After her graduation, Nooyi first joined ABB and then Johnson and Johnson (J&J) in Mumbai as a product manager. At J&J, she managed the challenging task of introducing Stayfree sanitary napkins to India. At that time advertising for feminine hygiene products was banned in the country and Stayfree was struggling to gain a foothold. Nooyi managed to introduce the products to young women by directly marketing to female students at schools and colleges.

Her curiosity and enthusiasm to learn more took her to Yale Management School in US and where in 1978 she earned a master’s degree in public and private management. She worked as a receptionist to buy a western suit for her first job interview. Her visible discomfort with the outfit saw her being rejected. For her next interview her professor advised her to stick to what she was comfortable with.

She wore a sari and got the job. That led to a philosophy of ‘be yourself,’ one she followed for the rest of her career. In one interview, she said, “I grew up with a mother who said, ‘I’ll arrange a marriage for you at 18,’ but she also said that we could achieve anything we put our mind to and encouraged us to dream of becoming prime minister or president.’”

Before joining Pepsi, Nooyi worked with the Boston Consulting Group and Motorola.

Elected to PepsiCo’s board of directors, she became president and chief financial officer in 2001, She had been senior vice-president and CFO the year before. She served as PepsiCo’s senior vice president, corporate strategy and development from 1996 until 2000, and as senior vice president, strategic planning from 1994 until 1996.

In 2006, Nooyi was named the CEO. According to Business Week, since she started as CFO in 2000 the company’s annual revenues have risen 72 percent while net profit more than doubled, to $ 5.6 billion in 2006. Asked the secret of her success, she said, “The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you.”

Nooyi is the 12th highest paid corporate woman in the US. According to Forbes magazine, she earns more than $12.7 million annually.

Indra Nooyi honored with Padma Bhushan in 2007.

India awarded her the Padma Bhushan in 2007. Out of 10 Fortune 500 companies run by women. Nooyi is the 11th to break into top company management.

One of Nooyi’s famous quotes is “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.”

Nooyi married Raj Nooyi, president of AmSoft Systems, in 1980. They have two daughters, Preetha and Tara.

Nooyi also has an interest in the arts and is a member of the board of the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts in the New York City.


[Photo courtesy: Google search]

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