From being a young ambitious immigrant to rising to the World’s Most Powerful Women lists, Indra has seen it all. Yet despite the challenges she faced under the different labels she wears, she has somehow managed to rise graciously and leave her mark in the corporate world and beyond. But what exactly has her journey been like?
Sixty-six-year-old Indra Nooyi was born in Madras State in India. After her secondary school education, she attended the Madras Christian College and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics in 1974. Two years later she got her Post Graduate Diploma from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Nooyi then moved to the United States in 1978 to pursue a Master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management.
Nooyi’s career started in India where she held product manager positions with two companies. While in the States, she worked with companies like Boston Consulting Group, Motorola, and Asea Brown Boveri before joining PepsiCo in 1994. She was the Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning at first, and then became the company’s President and CFO in 2001. Twelve years after joining Pepsi, she was named CEO, allowing her to shape a company she had come to personalize as her own. With Indra in charge, PepsiCo’s revenue moved from $35 billion to $63.5 billion, an 80% increase. In her own words, market capitalization rose by $57 billion whilst shareholders received about $79 billion in cash returns. Indra afterward resigned as CEO in 2018 and as Chairman in 2019, fulfilled and ready to venture into different fields.
Despite her various achievements as CEO, what is most notable about Indra’s leadership is the ‘Performance with Purpose’ strategy she used. She decided to not only think about the long-term growth of the company but also achieve it in a way that is friendly to society and the environment. Thus she began projects like using recyclable material and producing healthy snacks for consumers. She has also advocated for executives that are involved in a company head, heart, and hands. In modeling the heart aspect, she got to know employees’ families and built an environment that allowed young family builders to also be important contributors to work, without having to sacrifice either. This is well captured in her recently published memoir: My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, a must-read for executives and laymen alike!