Indra Nooyi — A Woman of Substance

I grew up with a mother who said, ‘I’ll arrange a marriage for you at the age of 18, but she also said that we could achieve anything we put our minds to and encouraged us to become the Prime Minister or President.” – Indra Nooyi

The story starts with an 18-year-old girl who completed her degree in Physics, Science and Mathematics at the University of Chennai and a Post Graduate Programme Diploma from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976. She wanted to study abroad but when she asked her parents for their permission to study in America, they were sure she wouldn’t get in. This instead became a reason for her to work harder and prove herself. Consequent of her hard work and ambition, she landed a scholarship at Yale. Working as a receptionist from dusk till dawn, she fed herself while at the same time, saving penny by penny to buy a suit for interviews. She wasn’t comfortable and that became the reason for constant rejection. After being told by a mentor, she wore what she felt most like herself in – A sari, later landing a job at Boston Consulting Group. She then realized the importance of being herself, a motto which led her to where she is now.

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, is an Indo-American business executive, serving as the chairman of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage business in the world by net revenue, and as CEO for 12 years from 2006-2018. As an Indian origin Businesswoman, she has charted a path for herself and stands to be one of the most influential women in the world.

In 2014, she was ranked at number 13 on the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman on the Fortune list in 2015. In 2006, Indra Nooyi became PepsiCo’s first female CEO, as well as its first CEO not born in the US. Nooyi’s confidence and work ethic helped her achieve an MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1980 and to start building a successful career. Early on, she said men wouldn’t make eye contact with her in meetings and would consistently check her answers with one of her male colleagues. But rather than wilt under the pressure, she began to call men out on their actions, and it wouldn’t take long for them to realize she was highly adept at her job.

In my heart, I said, ‘I can do this better than anyone else can, and if everything else fails, they’re going to come to me and say, ‘Fix it,’ because I know I’m that good,” she said. “Remember, I could be president of India!“. Indra Nooyi has lived a vicarious life, she recently retired from PepsiCo after 24 years of being in the company and 12 years as the CEO only a day after Gandhi Jayanti this year.

Describing herself as an ordinary girl she still retains so much of her Indianness and dons sari with bindi in most of the official ceremonies. She believes the corporate world appreciates people who are genuine. She views PepsiCo as an extended family. Being a woman, immigrant and of a different race multiplied her troubles but she decided to maintain her calm during turbulent waters.Nooyi has become a milestone for Indian women – she is an inspiration and her success story has given a leverage to many other Indian women to stand up and work their way on the top of the ladder.

India is developing, women in the country are being acknowledged worldwide for their work and their strong personalities. It is indeed true that “behind every successful woman, there is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.” Such women are strong, bold and have a standing in the society but most importantly they are an inspiration to million others.

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