The Leadership story of Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is an Indian American business executive who served as the Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage business in the world by net revenue.

She has consistently ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women. In 2014, she was ranked at number 13 on the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman on the Fortune list in 2015.

Prior to becoming CEO she was the President, Chief Financial Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of PepsiCo Inc. Under Nooyi’s leadership, PepsiCo fought against all odds and managed to grow over the years. Since she assumed the CEO role in October 2006, Pepsi stock steadily gained over 79 per cent.

Education and early career

Nooyi completed her schooling from Holy Angels AIHSS, Chennai and received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, Chemistry and Maths from Madras Christian College in 1974. On completion of her graduation she went to Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta for doing Masters in Finance and Marketing in 1976. After completion of her MBA she joined ABB and then Johnson and Johnson (J&J) in Mumbai as a product manager.

However, she was not satisfied with the way her career was progressing. So she decided to enroll in one of the top management school in the world. In 1978, Nooyi was admitted to Yale School of Management where she earned a master’s degree in Public and Private Management. She completed her summer internship with Booz Allen Hamilton. In 1980, she joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and then held strategy positions at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri.

Career at PepsiCo

Indra NooyiIndra Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 as a Senior VP, Strategic Planning. She handled that portfolio for almost 2 years, post which, she served as PepsiCo’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Development from 1996 to 2000. Nooyi has directed the company’s global strategy for more than a decade and led PepsiCo’s restructuring. She was the brain behind the formation of a separate brand in 1997 for its restaurants, into ‘Tricon.’ The brand is now known as ‘Yum! Brands’ which made its KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.

This was followed by the deal-making of two of the most effective acquisitions of the company, so far. First, she was an integral part in making the acquisition of ‘Tropicana’ orange-juice brand, for which she also had helped put together the $3.3 billion-dollar-deal for the purchase in 1998, after which she also helped the company to secure the purchase of ‘Quaker Oats’ for $14 billion. Not only did this deal bring in Gatorade to PepsiCo, but this also turned out to become of the biggest food deals in corporate history then. This was also followed by the largest international acquisition in PepsiCo’s history – the acquisition of ‘Wimm-Bill-Dann,’ and the beverage maker ‘SoBe’.

Indra NooyiLater on, she was elected to PepsiCo’s Board of Directors and became President and Chief Financial Officer in 2001. Her vision for the company as the President and CFO was to bring the company on track and to have a snack in the market for every part of the day. According to Business Week, since she started as CFO, the company’s annual revenues have risen 72%, while net profit more than doubled, to USD 5.6 billion in 2006.

She was named CEO in 2006 replacing Steven Reinemund, becoming the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history. Although, she did continue as the President till April 2007, post which, she was also made the Chairman.

The first task that hit her desk, as soon as she became the CEO, was actually a long pending issue that needed immediate attention. PepsiCo’s water usage, since early 2000, had been at the centre of attention in India. They were suspected to be using a lot of water in a country where water shortages were a recurring issue. They were also being blamed that of diverting water to manufacture a discretionary product. Hence, to understand the depth of the problem, PepsiCo had launched a country-wide program to achieve a “positive water balance” in India by 2009. And to solve the issue one-and-for-all, Indra decided to take a trip to India in 2007. She went there to address the water usage practices in the country, and also to show all the critics and government that PepsiCo was seriously doing something about the issue. In 2009, when the company’s 2009 corporate citizenship report was released, the company had successfully managed to restock more than Six billion litres of water within India itself. This figure also exceeded the total average intake of PepsiCo within India, which was five billion litres. Due to this successful program, PepsiCo went on to extend this program to all the countries in which they were operating and which faced water issues, and in a total, the company went on to save more than 12 billion litres of water globally.

Nooyi’s strategic redirection of PepsiCo has been largely successful. She 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). Her initiative was backed up with ample funding. She moved corporate spending away from junk foods and into the healthier alternatives, with the aim of improving the healthiness of even the “fun” offerings. In 2015, Nooyi removed aspartame from Diet Pepsi, furthering the shift towards healthier foods, despite lack of evidence of aspartame’s harmful effects.

On 6 August 2018, PepsiCo Inc confirmed that Nooyi would step down as the CEO and Ramon Laguarta, a 22-year veteran of PepsiCo, would replace her on October 3.

Achievements and Recognition

Indra Nooyi with Narendra ModiForbes magazine ranked Nooyi on the 2008 through 2017 lists of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Fortune magazine has named Nooyi number one on its annual ranking of Most Powerful Women in business for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2008, she was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. In 2008, she was elected to the Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In January 2008, she was elected chairwoman of the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC). Nooyi leads USIBC’s Board of Directors, an assembly of more than 60 senior executives representing a cross-section of American industry.

She has been named 2009 CEO of the Year by Global Supply Chain Leaders Group.

In 2009, Nooyi was considered one of “The TopGun CEOs” by Brendan Wood International, an advisory agency. After five years on top, she was pushed to the second spot as most powerful woman in US business by Kraft’s CEO, Irene Rosenfeld.

Indra NooyiIn 2013, she was named one of the “25 Greatest Global Living Legends” by NDTV. On 14 December 2013 she was awarded Padma Bhushan by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Nooyi was named to Institutional Investor’s Best CEOs list in the All-America Executive Team Survey in 2008 to 2011.

The Yale School of Management will name its deanship in honour of Nooyi as she gifted an undisclosed amount, becoming the school’s biggest alumni donor and the first woman to endow a deanship at a top business school.