Indra Nooyi is known to everyone as the woman who transformed PepsiCo’s global strategy. Her career graph, however, had scaled commendable heights even before she took over as the CEO of the second largest food and beverage company in the world. Today, on her birthday, let’s look at her achievements before and after she became the Corporate Queen of PepsiCo.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi was born in 1955 to a Tamil speaking family in Chennai. Even as a young girl, she was fiercely independent, with a tendency to go after what she wanted. She was part of an all-girls cricket team and the guitarist for an all-female rock band (impressed much?). It obviously wasn’t all play for her because she exhibited an academic brilliance that got her into Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, in 1974. Form this point on, her career as a business executive began to take shape.
With an MBA degree in hand, Nooyi first worked as a product manager with the textile company Mettur Beardshell before she moved onto Johnson & Johnson. As a product manager again, Nooyi was given the responsibility of introducing Stayfree in the Indian market, but at a sensitive time when marketing of female hygiene products was banned. So Nooyi then improvised. Taking the quaint road to marketing, she walked into schools and colleges and handed out the products personally.
After having gained some work experience, Nooyi studied at the Yale School of Management in 1978. A 25-year old graduate, she worked at the Boston Consulting Group for six years before she moved to Motorola, and then Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) in 1990. It was only four years later, in 1994, that PepsiCo acquired the jewel to their crown.
What Queen Bees do
It was 1997 when Nooyi realised that PepsiCo would benefit from shifting its attention from the fast food business. The company at that time owned KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silver. Nooyi led the spin-off of these fast food chains into the giant Tricon Global Restaurants, now known as Yum! Brands, Inc.
Nooyi’s redirection of her company didn’t end here. She was adamant on implementing the shift towards healthy food alternatives in order to realign the company with the shift in customer requirements. With this goal in mind, she classified PepsiCo’s products into three categories: Fun for you, including regular soda and snacks, Better for you, including low-fat sodas and snacks, and Good for you, including healthy alternatives in snacks such as oatmeal.
With this new strategy and direction, Nooyi led PepsiCo in the acquisition of Tropicana in 1998, and a year later, in the $13 billion merger with Quaker Oats. With the shiny new pin of ‘healthy’, PepsiCo’s sales started to see brighter days.
Nooyi took over as the President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in 2001. Soon after that, PepsiCo’s annual revenue increased by 72 percent and its net profit rose from $2.5 billion to $6.5 billion. The net worth of the company had sky-rocketed and found a place in the clouds.
PepsiCo celebrated its 5th CEO in its 44-year history when Nooyi took the throne in 2006. Since then, she has been working on better designs for the product, on creating new products for women and on general improvement of user experience. She visits company outlets to check for efficiency, always looking to take PepsiCo to greater heights. “We ought to keep pushing the boundaries to get to flawless execution…Flawless is the ultimate goal.”
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