Indra Nooyi: Indian-born Immigrant & First Female PepsiCo CEO and President

When Indra Nooyi moved to the United States from Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India, in 1978 she never imagined that just sixteen (16) years later she would be working for beverage giant PepsiCo and only seven (7) years after that, appointed CFO of the company.

Nooyi, who earned her master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management, began her career in India working as a Product Manager for Mettur Beardsell and later on for Johnson & Johnson. After migrating to the United States in the late 70s and finishing her master’s degree at Yale, Nooyi joined the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 1980 and held positions at BCG, Motorola, and ASEA Brown Boveri (a multinational corporation) for the next fourteen (14) years.

After only five (5) years as the CFO of PepsiCo, Nooyi was chosen to replace the outgoing President and CEO, Steven Reimund, and became the fifth CEO in the company’s 44-year history and the first female Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Since Nooyi’s appointment as CFO in 2001, the company increased its annual net profit from under $3B to almost $7B. In 2008, Forbes named Indra Nooyi the third (3rd) most powerful woman in the world. Over the course of Nooyi’s tenure as CEO and President at PepsiCo, she worked tirelessly to shift the brand’s image to a healthier, eco-friendlier one. She created campaigns to completely re-brand Pepsi and all associated products, such a Frito-Lay, Pepsi Cola, and Gatorade, ultimately removing aspartame from Diet Pepsi in 2015 in a move to make a major PepsiCo product healthier for consumers.

Nooyi served a PepsiCo CEO for twelve (12) years, over twice the average for CEO tenure at large companies, which is currently only five (years). In October of 2018, Nooyi stepped down as PepsiCo CEO and President, with the agreement to continue on as company chairwoman until early 2019. After nearly 30 years in product management, Indra Nooyi has completely transformed a major food and beverage company, raising PepsiCo to the second (2nd) largest food and beverage platform in the world, with a revenue of over $63.5B in 2017.

Despite Indra’s poor beginnings and her immigrant status – she recalls going to work in corporate America with only two suits (one black and one beige) – she has built herself up from a foreign graduate student at Yale to generating a salary of nearly $30M in 2016 alone.

While immigrating to the United States has its challenges, there are numerous success stories from American immigrants who used their hardships as fuel to create their perfect American dream. Indra Nooyi had high hopes for her future, but through dedication and perseverance, she was able to reach her goals and beyond, changing the face of the product management world forever.