Featured Business Leader – Indra Nooyi

Featured Business Leader – Indra Nooyi


This week’s featured business leader is Indra Nooyi, a leading businesswoman who is the current Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the second-largest food and beverage business in the world, PepsiCo. One of the world’s most recognisable brands, PepsiCo is a large organisation that encompasses a variety of brands including Pepsi, Gatorade, Lipton, Smiths, Doritos and many more.

Indra Nooyi was born and raised in Chennai, India to her Tamil family, who worked hard to ensure that she was well-educated. After completing secondary school, she undertook a Bachelor of Science at Madras Christian College, specialising in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, before immediately continuing her higher education and achieving a Masters of Business Administration from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta.

Her business career started in her native India, where she held roles with leading manufacturing and industrial companies, before relocating to America to pursue her business ambitions through a range of different companies. In the 1980’s Indra Nooyi began her career at technology giant Motorola as a Business Development Executive, before being promoted to the role of Vice President, and named the Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning. She worked at Motorola until 1990, before taking on a Senior Vice President role with industrial company Asea Brown Boveri until the mid-1990’s.

1994 saw Indra Nooyi leave her previous role to join PepsiCo as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning. Her appointment to that role was the start of several promotions within the business. In 2001, she was appointed as the President and Chief Financial Officer for PepsiCo Worldwide. Throughout her tenure at PepsiCo, Nooyi has been a champion of major company decisions including the acquisition of leading American brand Tropicana, and the merger with food and beverage organisation Quaker Oats Company.

In 2006, Indra Nooyi was named the 5th CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history, and the first female to take the leading role within the multi-national organisation. As CEO, she has been responsible for major changes within the organisation, including brand acquisitions and development, which has helped to make PepsiCo into the leading company it is today – its annual net revenue is around $66 billion US dollars.

Indra Nooyi is also the architect of a major internal project at PepsiCo, known as ‘Performance with Purpose’ – a promise made by all members of the organisation to do what is best for the business by doing what’s right for people and the planet. The scheme places a great focus on environmental sustainability, human resources and talent retention – to this end, PepsiCo has been named in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index, and the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for its environmental efforts. The company has also built a reputation as an employer of choice by offering benefits, competitive salaries and professional development opportunities to its staff.

Despite her major successes, Indra Nooyi has labelled herself a sceptic of the notion of “having it all” as a working woman in a position of power. In July 2014, when interviewed at a conference in Colorado, she said “We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years, and we have two daughters. Every day, you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, and you often have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.”

Though some would disagree with the above, she is a realist in the face of a high-powered and incredibly demanding business role, conceding that often a woman’s biological clock and their career ambitions are in direct conflict – which makes it very difficult for women to rise to positions of power. However, Nooyi herself is currently proving the stereotype wrong.

Personally, I like the story of Indra Nooyi’s rise to power. She’s worked hard to not only earn her position but then sustain it with the creation of new projects and goals for her business. The company continues to grow from strength to strength under her leadership, and it’s now one of the most successful food and beverage companies in the industry as well as a well-recognised brand across the world.

What do you think about her rise to CEO? And do you agree with her assessments about the notion of women being unable to have both a successful career and family life, given the conflicts between a person’s career ambitions and their biological clocks? It can be a very heated subject, but I’d be interested to hear your views. Let us know in the comments below.

This article was written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article:  Wikipedia, Forbes and PepsiCo Purpose. Quote sourced from The Atlantic. Image sourced from Huffington Post.

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