In Indias long history, there have been many women who have excelled with their sheer strength and courage. Some such examples are Razia Sultan, Rani Laxmi Bai, Sarojini Naidu, Indira Gandhi, etc. The latest entrant to the list is Indra Nooyi, who has been placed 4th in the list of world’s topmost influential women by the Forbes Magazine.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi was born on 28 October 1955 in the south Indian city of Madras, now Chennai. After graduating from Madras Christian College with Maths, Physics and Chemistry as subjects she did her Masters in Finance and Marketing from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Her first job was with ABB and then she joined Johnson and Johnson (J&J) in Mumbai. While with J&J, she was closely associated with the launch of the sanitary napkin “Stayfree”.
The desire to do more in life drew her to Yale Management School in US, where she completed her Master’s in Public and Private Management. In US, she worked with Boston Consulting Group and Motorola before landing in the Pepsi in 1994. As the Chief Strategy Officer, Indra coaxed the CEO Roger Enrico of the Pepsi to follow- up the company’s restaurant division, including brands such KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. She equally emphasized in the Mergers and Acquisition. This was bolstered by the acquisition of the Tropicana and Quaker fruit juice brands.
As a typical tycoon of the business from her acumen she has predicted the slowdown in the popularity of aerated soft drinks in the markets worldwide. This enhanced her position in the business world where for a woman it is very difficult to leave any mark on the corner room office of the big conglomerate. She is the one who has meticulously planned for the foray of Pepsi into the sport drinks market in association with Gatorade. Her quick decision making ability and sticking to the work until it gets accomplished has made Enrico to comment, “If she gets an idea, she goes after it. There’s no stopping her”.
There is no doubt that her firmness and go getting attitude has won her laurels and has helped her to build a strong foundation in the career graph to reach the top echelon in the organization where many people aspire to reach. To become the Chief Executive Officer of a Multinational company, perhaps the first Indian to reach to this level has been a both tough and exciting experience. Indra has said that being a woman, immigrant and her color made it thrice difficult for her to reach her destination. The only mantra which she followed during the course of time was working hard twice as the male counterpart.
When it was announced that Indra Nooyi was going to replace Steve Reinemund as CEO of PepsiCo, it lit up fire in every mediocre soul that if she can achieve this insurmountable hierarchy nothing is impossible for a determined and strong willed person. The only thing required is perseverance. Indra Nooyi’s story lays emphasis on true values of life. Although she faced many hurdles while reaching the highest peak in international level, she walks with pride holding the dignity and honour of her most loved country, India.
While growing up with her sister, Indra Nooyi’s mother encouraged them to deliver a speech every night about what they wanted to be. After the speech the winner would get a piece of chocolate. This activity installed confidence and ambition in their little hearts, which helped them to pursue greater heights in the later parts of their life. When she moved to US for higher studies with little money, while studying in Connecticut she worked as a receptionist from midnight to sunrise. With that money she bought herself a western suit of US$ 50 for an interview at Yale, where she had just completed her masters.
As an individual, Indra Nooyi attributes most of her success to her upbringing in India. She honors her heritage by often attending PepsiCo events wearing a sari. As staunch believer of faith, Nooyi states that success rests on threes important factors “family, friends and faith”. As an entrepreneur of one of the biggest firms of US, she attributes her success to her employees. She views PepsiCo as her extended family and believes that to top the speed of competition an entrepreneur should attract the best employees.
Despite her busy schedules, Indra Nooyi has managed to balance equally central responsibility as a mother of two daughters and a wife. She still follows the traditional practices at home like the practice of taking off shoes before entering the Puja room and many other simple Indian beliefs and practices. She believes that the corporate world appreciates people who are genuine.
She has an ability to blend high- powered career with a family and her Hindu heritage. Being among the most successful businesswomen in the world, Indra Nooyi marks her identity with her tradition, unfeigned demeanour, perseverance and hard work. She is an icon to be followed and emulated.
Besides being very chirpy, Indira Nooyi has a great sense of humour. She has inclination towards arts and is a member of the Board of the Lincoln Center for the performing Arts in New York City. She has also been a member of the Boards of various organizations including Motorola and Yale University. She is truly global in her thinking and keeps a wide perspective about the world and has great intellect. After all, it is not easy to be the CEO of the world’s second-largest soft drink maker.