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Indra Nooyi – CEO, PepsiCo

Life Stories to Inspire


Ever wonder how to be influential and reach the top of the world?.

Well, she is someone who managed to rise to the top despite all social, cultural and gender challenges.

Here’s the inspiring story of CEO of PepsiCo and the Fortune / Time magazine’s most influential women in the world the Chennai born Indra Krishnamoorthy Nooyi.

It’s a simple story of a powerful Indian girl  who came from conservative Chennai to pursue higher studies in the  US with little money and no safety net. During her earlier days she worked as a receptionist from midnight to sunrise to earn money and struggled to put together US$50 to buy herself a western suit for her first job interview.

She’s been herself, never tried to change her basic beliefs, derived strength from her traditions and believed in who she is. As she says, “I’m so secure in myself, I don’t have to be American to play in the corporate life.” She worked hard and in time was counted as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes.

It all began years ago in Chennai, where she studied hard in school to get her grades. She remembers how her mother would, after meal every day ask Indra and her sister what would they like to become when they grew up. They would come up with different ideas and their mother would reward the best idea each day. It forced Indra to think and dream for herself. It was this dream that led her to be a part of the 11th batch of IIM Kolkata.

Career Path

Mrs. Nooyi began her career in the year 1976 from India, where she held Product manager positions at Mettur Beardsell, Ltd., a textile firm  and Johnson & Johnson. Then Mrs Nooyi spent six years as International corporate strategist  at The Boston Consulting Group.

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 responsible for its automotive and industrial electronic group.

Mrs. Nooyi also spent four years until 1994, 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.

Career With PEPSICO

Her journey at PepsiCo, though, has been far from smooth.

In the year 1994, Mrs Nooyi joined PEPSICO as Senior Vice  President- Strategy Planning and reached the level of Chairman & CEO of PEPSICO an  $63.5 billion turnover company where she has spent over two decades by now. Over the years, she became a flagbearer for working women striving to balance the personal with the professional.

Roles within PEPSICO 

Senior Vice President- Strategic Planning (1994- 1996  for TWO years)

Senior Vice President- Corporate Strategy & Development (1996- 2000 for FOUR years)

Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer (2000 - 2001  for ONE year)

President & Chief Financial Officer (2001-2006  for FIVE years)

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer (2006- 2018 for TWELVE years)

During her tenure, Nooyi negotiated the company’s acquisition of Tropicana (1998) and Quaker Oats (2000), which helped PepsiCo establish itself in the growing healthy foods segment. These acquisitions paved her way to the title of president and CFO in 2001. She also led the spin-off of PepsiCo’s fast-food business under the YUM! Brands into a separately listed entity in 1997.

As PepsiCo's CEO, she paved its dominance in the global snacks and drinks market by inking 80 tactical deals.

Childhood & Education

Indra Nooyi was born into a middle-class Chennai family on Oct. 28, 1955. Her father Mr. Krishnamurthy worked for the government-run State Bank of Hyderabad; her mother Mrs Shantha Krishnamurthy, a driven housewife, pushed the children to get the best grades. Indra has one brother Narayan & Sister Chandrika.

Her Higher secondary education is with city’s Holy Angels. She holds a B.S. from Madras Christian College, an M.B.A. from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta.

After graduating from IIM Calcutta,  Nooyi decided that she wanted to study further and managed to get a scholarship to attend Yale. But during those days, an unmarried woman going abroad was still a scandalous prospect. Though her parents hadn’t stopped her from applying to colleges, they didn’t expect that she would get the financial aid that could make the prospect a reality.

Her mother wanted to get her married first, but her family eventually decided to let her go. In 1978, still unmarried, she moved to the US with $500 in her pocket.

Working odd jobs to make ends meet, including as a receptionist, Nooyi managed to graduate with a master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale School of Management in 1980.

Indra’s Family  

Despite the monumental successes of her career, Indra Nooyi remains a typical Indian woman who has combined the high-octane energy of her job and equally responsible Mother and Wife.

At the age of 25, she married Raj Nooyi, now president at AmSoft Systems. She lives with her husband and two daughters, Connecticut. Preetha Nooyi and Tara Nooyi. Their elder daughter Preetha holds an MBA degree from Yale School of Management, the same school where Indra had studied.

If you ever visit her Connecticut home, do remember to take your shoes off before entering. If you forget, at least remember to take them off before entering the large pooja room where a diya is lit and the inviting air of incense greets you.

CEO @ Office not at Home  (This is an excerpt from an interview with Indra Nooyi)

“I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?”

I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?”

And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house.

Interesting Facts About Indra Nooyi

Ms Nooyi, one of the most powerful and influential business leaders regularly featured by Forbes and Fortune magazines in the past. Presently she has been ranked 2nd in the FORTUNE World’s most powerful women 2017 and ranked 11th in the Forbes World’s most powerful women 2017.

During the year 2007, Chosen as a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India, Third highest civilian award of the Republic of India in the field of Trade & Industry

In addition to being a member of the PepsiCo Board of Directors, Ms Nooyi also serves on the boards of the International Cricket Council and several non-profit organizations, including the US-India Business Council, the Consumer Goods Forum, Catalyst, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, the World Economic Forum and the Asia Society. She is also a former trustee of the Yale Corporation.

Stepping Down as CEO

Mrs Nooyi, has been with PEPSICO for 24 years and as a CEO for 12 years. On 6th Aug  2018 , she announced she would be stepping down as the company’s first foreign-born and first female CEO. She will remain Chairman until early 2019 to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.

In her statement announcing her departure, Nooyi brought up her Indian roots: “Growing up in India, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company,”.

Chennai-born Indra Nooyi not only broke the glass ceiling in corporate America when she was named CEO of global beverage giant, through her journey, inspired millions of young Indians who dream of and aspire to emulate the success the India-born woman achieved in America. She was among the first of a handful of India-born executives to helm global corporates.













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