Reflections Series – The Makings of Indra Nooyi: A Young Australian’s Perspective

Part One of our two-part feature on Indra Nooyi, written by one of MCX’s Marketing Interns Madeleine Quinn.

“Every morning you’ve got to wake up with a healthy fear that the world is changing, and a conviction that, to win, you have to change faster and be more agile than anyone else.” – Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo’s former CEO, Indra Nooyi, visited Australia in June to speak at several Growth Faculty events. The buzz this visit generated here in Sydney led me to look into one of the world’s most powerful women – to learn what propels Nooyi forward and what her long and illustrious career can teach those of us who are facing down the beginnings of our own careers.

Put simply, Indra Nooyi is exceptional. Raised in Madras (now Chennai), India, Nooyi later moved to the US to attend the Yale School of Management. Her career is a long succession of firsts – first female and first foreign-born CEO of PepsiCo, first woman to endow a deanship at a top business school, first female director of the International Cricket Council. She boosted revenue at PepsiCo by 80 percent during her tenure as CEO, raising profits from $35 billion to $63.5 billion. Nooyi is widely regarded as one of the most successful and powerful women in the world, with influence extending through business, bilateral trade, and social initiatives. Her impact on the world – and its future – cannot be measured solely by profit reports.

Indra Nooyi is a prime example of how accessible the world has become; it was unthinkable for ‘good, conservative, South Indian Brahmin girl’ to move half a world away to pursue an MBA in America rather than marry – until Nooyi did so. Her success is meaningful for aspiring women around the world. Through dedication, hard work and faith in her own abilities, she has climbed the ranks to become one of the most powerful people in business; a community that has included very few women to date.

Observing the actions of powerful, driven women such as Nooyi means that my path from committed university student to global business powerhouse doesn’t seem so impossible after all.

What has inspired me also is Indra Nooyi’s balanced business approach. She was responsible for PepsiCo’s pivot towards selling healthier snacks and beverages – initially doubted as a ‘Mother Theresa’ business move, this decision paid off significantly for PepsiCo’s profit levels as consumers have become increasingly health conscious.

My generation loved the sustainable agenda. Indra was a champion for Pepsi’s reduction in water use, pushing for a sustainable agenda and generally advocating for Performance with Purpose as a guiding business principle. This aspect of doing business has particularly impressed me and I must say I would love to follow in her footsteps.

Coupled with her honesty around the importance of work-life balance – and the need for time with loved ones – Nooyi is part of the promise for a more thoughtful, measured and successful approach to business and profits into the future.

The world is indeed changing, a fact that I’ve honestly always found to be slightly terrifying in its uncertainty but if I was to follow Indra Nooyi’s work practices I am sure I would wake up every morning excited to tackle the challenges of the day.

To continue reading our “Reflections” feature on Indra Nooyi, check out Part Two titled “The Makings of Indra Nooyi: A Young Australian-Indian’s Perspective” by MCX Marketing Intern Kavisha Sarma.

Image header source: OfficeChai

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