Indra Nooyi is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage company in the world by net worth. Born and raised in India, Nooyi has a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Kolkata, India and a Master’s in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management. To add to her list, she has several honorary doctorates from leading universities across the globe such as the University of Warwick, Pennsylvania State University, etc., She has also received the prestigious Padma Bushan from the President of India. It is an award which till date remains the highest honour conferred upon a citizen of Indian origin. Nooyi has extensive experience in the business market. Before joining PepsiCo, she worked in several firms such as Johnson & Johnson, Booze Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, etc., Fortune Magazine named her the most powerful woman in business for five years in a row till 2010.
Learning from her career:
- Active Learner:
It is important to be an active learner to develop in your field of work.
From the very start of her time in PepsiCo, which was an internship, Indra Nooyi was intent on learning and shaping herself according to the company’s demands. Former PepsiCo CEO Steve Reinemund became her mentor and guided her right from her internship. She worked alongside with him not only learning but also contributing her fullest to the company. In time she became an essential for Reinemund. Thinking about Reinemund’s mentoring she says, "I am a product of great mentoring and great coaching."
To ensure a healthy work environment and to further the prospects of any career or organization, it is very important to have the capacity to adapt.
Nooyi said, “To lead in an ever-changing world, leaders must adapt and stay nimble.” When in conversation with Andy Serwer of Forbes, she discussed the relationship multinational companies have to maintain with various countries and their government/ foreign policies. She insists that it is important to maintain a strong and constant relationship with countries in order to ensure that business thrives. In such cases, the organizational structure has to be very flexible and ready to adapt but at the same time not lose track of its primary goal.
Learning is very different from being aware. Awareness is a process of knowing both the sides of a coin, which can be attained by constant learning. One has to have this foresight to lead a successful career.
Nooyi was responsible for PepsiCo’s restructuring in 2012 when they cut down 3% of their work force in order to invest in other means of bringing the company to the forefront such as advertising and creating newer products. Nooyi said, “I'm very honest - brutally honest. I always look at things from their point of view as well as mine. And I know when to walk away.” The savings through this restructuring met the company’s financial goals for the year and as a result Nooyi earned an incentive pay of $3.3 million. She is also credited for having increased net profit by 1.2 % in 2013, just by increasing prices of small snack products such as Cheetos and Doritos.
- Performance with Purpose:
It is important to work with a purpose in mind and not perform for the sake of profit.
Nooyi introduced the ‘good for you’ food division which produces food items with lower calories. Performance with Purpose has also opened PepsiCo to giving back to communities by being considerate about production impact on the environment. Nooyi said, “Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I've never forgotten that.”
- Positive Intent:
Never lose positive intent.
She says, “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.” In 2012, PepsiCo lost its North American soda business share to Coca Cola. Nooyi was criticized for having lost focus. But inspite of all the negative criticism that she received during this period, Nooyi decided to let it influence her administration positively. Inspite of several insinuations and speculation that Nooyi would step down after dropping to second place to Coca Cola, Nooyi continued steadfast in her position with hopes of bettering the company by investing in new products, investing more in ad campaigns and also regaining shares through its restructuring.
- Attention to Detail:
Every small detail matters. Paying attention to detail ensures you remove trouble from the grass-root level.
Indra Nooyi knows her employees very well. She interacts with key employees and mentors them personally. In her interview with Forbes, Nooyi said that she wrote to the parents of her employees to thank them for the gift of their child. Such connections established with the employees will ensure their loyalty and dedication to the company. Paying attention to all aspects will definitely be difficult but it inculcates foresight and helps assess situations better. It is also the best way to avoid mishaps. Nooyi said, “I pick up the details that drive the organization insane. But sweating the details is more important than anything else.”
It is important to avoid becoming stagnant. And the best way to do this is by expanding ones physical boundaries.
Nooyi has a record of constantly adding to the portfolio of brands under PepsiCo, elevating it from a soda company to a multinational food and beverage conglomerate. In 2010, she successfully acquired the two largest bottlers of Pepsi products in North America:Pepsi Bottling Group and Pepsi Americas which resulted in the formation of a subsidiary called Pepsi Beverages Company. PepsiCo has increased investments in developing countries like India, Mexico and China targeting the growing middle-class. Though the involvement with Mexico was initiated only very recently, Mexico has become the third largest PepsiCo establishment in the world. Nooyi says, “Leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don't grow vertically; they grow exponentially.” PepsiCo, under the leadership of Nooyi has come to approach markets in a very innovative and creative manner by creating market specific products. For example, Quaker Oats products is marketed as a local breakfast product in India, whereas in China, it is produced as Quaker Congee.
From all her career experiences, we notice that Indra Nooyi is a person who constantly learned and made herself aware. With respect to self-improvement she says,
“The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you. That is a big lesson. I cannot just expect the organization to improve if I don't improve myself and lift the organization, because that distance is a constant.”