“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”
Indra Nooyi is a pioneering figure among world’s most inspirational stories of women. Nooyi, an Indian American business woman is a business executive, most popularly known for being the former CEO of PepsiCo.
Nooyi also serves on the board of International Cricket Council, Amazon and Schlumberger.
“My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.”
Nooyi was born into a middle-class Indian family, in the city of Madras, present day Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Speaking about her family, Nooyi said she was brought up by a mother who intended to get her married at the age of eighteen. Nooyi further also clarifies that with that her mother also said that one is capable of achieving anything one puts their mind to, and can pursue dreams of becoming a prime minister or a president.
Nooyi completed her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics from the Madras Christian College of the University of Madras in 1974. Further on, she also completed a Post Graduate Programme Diploma from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976. Nooyi wished to continue her academics abroad, and expressed her wish to study at Yale School of Management, from where she completed her master’s degree in Public and Private Management in 1980.
“I asked my parents for permission to study in America and they were so sure that I wouldn’t get in and get a scholarship that they encouraged me to try. So I applied to Yale and got an excellent scholarship.”
“I am honest, brutally honest. I always look at things from their point of view as well as mine. And I know when to walk away.”
Nooyi struggled to reach great heights to get into the positions she is in today. Initially Nooyi worked as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group and later held executive positions at Motorola Inc. and at an engineering firm Asea.
Before joining PepsiCo, Nooyi has worked at manager positions at Johnson & Johnson and at the textile firm Mettur Bearsell. It is also alleged Nooyi earned from odd jobs to make ends meet. She allegedly also worked as a receptionist during her college days. Nooyi also leaded the international corporation strategy projects at Boston Consulting group for six years before she joined PepsiCo.
“I wouldn’t ask anybody to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”
In 1994, Nooyi joined PepsiCo as a senior vice president of corporate strategy and development. In 2001, Nooyi climbed the ladder and became the president and chief financial officer of the company.
During her tenure, she was also responsible for the company’s spin-off restaurants such as Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. These were then included into Tricon Global Restaurants which later became Yum! Brands Inc.
Nooyi was also responsible for the acquisition of Tropicana Products in 1998 and oversaw the merger with Quarker Oats Co in 2001, the partnership was attributed to the diversification of the company into more healthy foods and drinks.
“You cannot deliver value unless you anchor the company’s values. Values make an unsinkable ship. Code of conduct goes beyond legal compliance and every employee needs to be well versed with it.”
In 2006, Nooyi was named the CEO of the company. She was the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s history of 44 years and replaced Steven Reinemund. Furthermore, Nooyi also became chairman of the board. As a result, she became the fifth chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. She was also the first woman to lead the soft-drink and snack food company, in addition to being one of the eleven female chief executives of Fortune 500 companies.
Throughout her tenure in PepsiCo, Nooyi has been praised for the skills which she used to run the company. Under her leadership the company increased its revenues from $35 billion in 2006 to $ 63.5 billion in 2017, raising the company’s sales to 80%. Nooyi stepped down from the role of CEO in October and as the chairman in early 2019.
During her time, Nooyi reclassified PepsiCo’s products into three categories: “fun for you” (such as potato chips and regular soda), "better for you" (diet or low-fat versions of snacks and sodas), and "good for you" (items such as oatmeal).
She had also expressed her ambition to develop snacks specifically for women, saying that it was an unexplored category.
In total Nooyi served for a total of 12 years as a CEO, which is 7 years longer than an average CEO tenure in large companies.
A powerful woman
“As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standards for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.”
Nooyi was listed as the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Forbes magazine from 2008 to 2017. Sources allege that Nooyi earned $17 million as a CEO of PepsiCo in 2011. Her earnings included a base salary of $1.9 million and a cash bonus of $2.5 million, along with a pension value and deferred remuneration of $3 million.
By 2014, Nooyi’s total remuneration rose to $19,087,832, in addition to $5.5 million of equity.
CEOWORLD magazine named Nooyi one of the Best CEOs in the World. Fortune magazine also named her number one on its annual ranking of Most Powerful Women in business for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In 2007, Nooyi also garnered the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honour of Republic of India.
Moreover, Nooyi was also named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, she was later also elected for the fellowship of American Academy of Arts & Science.
Nooyi leads the USIBC’s Board of directors, which is an assembly of more than 60 senior executives representing a cross-section of the American industry.
She is also one of the The TopGun CEOs and became CEO of the Year by Global Supply Chain Leaders Group.
NDTV named Nooyi one of the 25 Greatest Global Living Legends in 2013. She was also named the Best CEOs in the All-America Executive Team Survey in 2008 to 2011.
The Yale School of Management announced to name its deanship in the name of Nooyi as she allegedly gifted an undisclosed amount to the institute, thus becoming the school’s biggest alumni donor and also the first woman to secure a deanship at one of the top business schools.
“An important attribute of success is to be yourself. Never hide what makes you, you.”
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