Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Indra Nooyi of Pepsi: An Inspiration to All Indian Women

Indra Nooyi is President and CEO of PepsiCo, Inc as of Oct 1. As many of us are already aware of this, I am drawn to this not only in seeing the elevation of Indra to CEO, but also the fact that everybody has noticed it.

Indra has been ranked amongst the top 50 most powerful women both in Forbes and Forture 500 company magazines. Prior to this, she was Senior VP and CFO of Pepsi, US and played key roles in the Tricon spin off, acquiring Tropicana, merger with Qaker Foods and also in the public offering of Pepsi Cola bottling group.

Unlike other Indian CEOs what makes Nooyi distinct and special?

First of all, she is a woman, an Indian-born girl who garduated from Madras Christian College and IIM, Calcutta. Her fiery urge to come to the US in 1978 to pursue her Master's degree in Public and Private Management at the Yale School of Management was aptly rewarded.

Secondly, she wasn't an American, but an outsider. This implies that she had to be twice as good as her peers to be considered half as good in a white dominated corporate environment. Her first job at the Boston Consulting Group for six years gave her the strategic background and later enabled her to join Motorola as VP and Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning. Later, her move to Asea Brown Boveri as part of the top management team brought her career graph higher.

She joined PepsiCo in 1994 and broke the glass ceiling by clawing her way up the ladder to become President and CFO in 2001. In her current position, she is responsible for all of Pepsi's corporate fucntions, including finance, stretegy, business process optimization, innovation, investor relations etc.

Lastly, Indra's uniqueness comes from the fact that she wears a sari to attend PepsiCo's corporate events and thereby comes across as a woman proud of her Indian heritage and upbringing. This has made other Americans look to her with a difference and they welcome the genuine woman that she has become. It has opened up a whole new vision for the Indian CEO's, especially the stereo typed Gupta, Dutta Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have changed their names to blend in with the Americans here unlike Indra's distinctiveness.

Interviews from Business wekk and other articles talk highly about Nooyi's other responsbilities as mother of two daughters and a wife to her husband Raj. She claims that her religious nature and background that she maintains in her puja room at her Connecticut home along with Lord Ganesha's grace always help her handle the several roles that she has to play at home and at the office. Her extra curricular activities aren't limited to playing the electric guitar at office parties, but also span reading a book everday between 11pm to 2 am to keep herself up to date on innovation.

To the average American, Indra Nooyi's CEOship at PepsiCo has come to symbolize the "entry" of the Indian woman immigrant. Today, as Indra stands apart as one of the most successful and powerful businesswomen in the world, she personifies that for Indians to come up and rise in the corporate ladder here in the US- education, hard work and moving into lucrative areas such as finance, HR, law, medicine, entertainment and engineering makes the difference. We need to take the paths that Jews have undertaken before and inspite of the 9/11 after effects, understandably, we would still need to work through to carve a niche for ourselves.

Nooyi deserves to be noticed and applauded for her feats and for drawing the attention to Indians breaking the bastions for top positions in corporate America. She may not be the first immigrant to get there, but she definitely has made a difference with her grand entry.

Kudos to Nooyi who is an inspiration to all Indian-born US educated career women!!!


Shankari said...

Nice write up and yes, when our people r americanizing their names and shy to talk of our rich culture, hats off to her to go in a saree...
I would not known abt her if u had not written so thanks to U

Raju said...

Thanks for sharing this info and such a nice detailed description. I didnt know about it at all, so I was pleasantly surprised. Congrats to her.. Your posts are morale-boosters, I should tell you..

carkar said...

Nooyi definitely deserves credit for her achievement. I think she mentioned in one of her interviews that she had to learn about baseball just to interact with her colleagues.
One more thing that should have worked in her favour is that Pepsi promotes people from different ethnic backgrounds ( may be because they have business interest in many countries or it could be a policy thing).

Anurama said...

A very detailed description.. I had read about Indra Nooyi earlier but you have put in lots of other info.. A very inspiring post indeed :)

Anu said...

Very well written Mitr... Nooyi has been an inspiration to all MBA students who have an education in India, she represents the fact career and culture can succeed in any envoirment.

mitr_bayarea said...

shankari and raju: Thanks. Some of my posts are inspired by thoughts and actions of several folks, esp. from a woman's perspective.

anurama: Yes, I didn't know a great deal myself, but after my husband gave me some background on Nooyi and her achievements, I put it together along with doing some online research.

anu:True, agree with you on the fact that career and culture can succeed in any environment, but Nooyi not only had a MBA from the prestigious IIM, Calcutta but also got her management degree at the Ivy League- Yale School of Management, which is extremely competitive and hard to get into.
That should have made a great impact in starting off her career as a Yale graduate.

priya said...


That was just amazing and I am glad you shared here. I had no clue at all.
My hearty congrats to her and as u said, we don't have to change oursleves just becoz we are form an another country. Indentity shud be the same and we shud eb proud of ourselves.

Thanks for your kind words in my blog:-)))