After 12 years, Indra Nooyi steps down as Pepsi CEO

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on August 06, 2018 Published on August 06, 2018

Indra Nooyi

She transformed the beverage giant in line with health trends

Indra Nooyi is stepping down as CEO of PepsiCo Inc, the beverage major she served for 24 years, including 12 years at the helm. Perhaps the most famous India-born female CEO who made it to the top in corporate America, she will hand over the reins in October to Ramon Laguarta, president for global operations, strategy, public policy and government affairs and a 22-year Pepsi veteran. Nooyi will remain Chairman until early 2019.

In an interview to Bloomberg, Nooyi, 62, said, “I’ve had a wonderful time being CEO, but at some point you sit back and say, look, it’s a responsible move to effect an orderly transition and to have somebody else take over the leadership of this company. Being a CEO requires strong legs and I feel like I ran two legs of a relay race and I want somebody else with nice strong legs and sharp eyes to come and lead this company.”

Born in Chennai and educated at Madras Christian College, Nooyi, who earned an MBA from IIM-Calcutta and a second master’s degree at Yale, spearheaded PepsiCo’s transition from a pure-play beverage company to a food-and-beverage giant, a move she had initiated when she was the CFO.

Nooyi also drove the agenda to add healthier drinks and snacks to the Pepsi portfolio, conscious of the broader societal shift toward healthier foods. She characterised PepsiCo’s product range as ‘fun for you’ (Pepsi, Lays, Cheetos); ‘better for you’ (baked Lays, Diet Pepsi etc) and ‘good for you’ (Quaker Oats and Tropicana).

Nooyi leaves at a time when consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the US has dropped to its lowest level in over 30 years as consumers avoid sugary drinks, a Bloomberg report noted.

In a statement on PepsiCo’s India business, Nooyi said, “I’m especially proud of the great work we’ve done in India to transform our portfolio to include more nutritious products, working with and supporting thousands of Indian farmers, and providing an inclusive workplace…”

Under Nooyi’s leadership, PepsiCo’s revenue grew by more than 80 per cent as it added a new billion-dollar brand every other year. She was also chief architect of PepsiCo’s vision of Performance with Purpose.

The Ethisphere’s list

Ethics and integrity were important values she fostered in the company and under her leadership, PepsiCo consistently made it to Ethisphere's list of the World's Most Ethical Companies. Former PepsiCo India Chairman & CEO, D Shivakumar, says Indra always was customer-centric and would always reach out to people within and outside the organisation.

Nooyi was a frequent visitor to India, speaking at various fora and meeting top bureaucrats and ministers. She was one of the main speakers at AdAsia 2011, where the theme was dealing with uncertainty; her message — that volatility is the new normal, and business leaders must learn the skill of adaptability — holds true to this day.

Leaders, she said, had to operate in the present and yet be focussed on the future. ”Uncertain times require us to have a long-term horizon. It is companies with a clear long-term mission that will thrive. But at the same time, investors need great performance, here and now. So we have to work on two time-scales at once,” she said.

Nooyi also told the forum that in volatile times, we need to be ambitious. “We must make big changes to big things,” she had said. That is something she attempted to do all the time in her long career at PepsiCo Inc.

Published on August 06, 2018
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