Indra Nooyi: Answering the Question- Coke or Pepsi?

Indra Nooyi: Answering the Question- Coke or Pepsi?

By Marcy Driehaus

State Leadership: An Opportunity for Global Action: Michael Froman: Indra Nooyi

Do you ever stop and wonder about the people behind your favorite snacks and sodas? Where would our Super Bowl parties and get-togethers be without goodies such as Doritos, Lays potato chips, Fritos, Gatorade, and Mountain Dew? Well, a key player in the distribution of these delicious treats and others like them is none other than Indra Nooyi: CEO of PepsiCo.

Nooyi was born on October 28, 1955 in Madras India. Despite her more conservative environment, in her youth Nooyi was never afraid to push her boundaries. Having been raised in a part of India where girls were expected to be compliant and polite, Nooyi engaged in few activities that would have been considered “out of the norm”, such as joining an all-girls cricket team. During her time at Madras Christian College, Nooyi was also a member of an all-girl rock band, which was just another testament to the fact that she did what she wanted no matter how unorthodox it may have been.

After graduating from Madras Christian College with a B.S., Nooyi went on to study at the Indian Institute of Management and earned her M.B.A. before getting accepted into Yale University’s graduate school of Management. Seizing this opportunity, she moved to America in 1978 and continued on in her studies. This, however, was not an easy task. Nooyi worked tirelessly just to get by. Even working grueling hours as an overnight receptionist, she struggled to make ends meet. Her hard work eventually paid off when she earned her second M.B.A. in    public and private management From Yale University in 1980.

Once accumulating an impressive amount of degrees, Nooyi worked her way up at the Boston Consulting Firm before moving to Motorola and assuming the position of senior executive in 1986. Through all of her hard work and the indisputable talent that was evident through this work, Nooyi began to be scouted by CEOs of big time companies. Two men in particular, Jack Welch of General Electric and Wayne Calloway of PepsiCo, were interested in having her on board. Though both companies offered her a job, Nooyi made the decision to join the PepsiCo family as the chief strategist. During her time working for PepsiCo, she quickly climbed the corporate ladder, going from chief strategist to chief financial officer in 2000 and eventually earned the title of President and CEO of PepsiCo in October of 2006. According to her Encyclopedia of World biography, Nooyi at this time became the “highest-ranking Indian-born woman among the ranks of corporate America”.

Through her work in this position, Nooyi has accomplished a multitude of things for PepsiCo such as scoring 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index for the Human Rights Campaign for our LGBT efforts, being ranked 18th in Hispanic Business’ “Best Companies for Diversity”, named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by The Ethisphere Institute, and recognized by Working Mother as one of the Best Companies for Multicultural Women. Through her efforts, along with the help of her team, Nooyi has managed to gain the respect and service of many while always remaining true to herself and her beliefs. Nooyi has set a good example for future leaders everywhere, and has made it a point to say, “Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” So go out there and be the best leader you can be, ladies!

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