As a school girl in Chennai, India, Indra Nooyi had no inkling that decades later, she would become the chief executive officer of PepsiCo and one of the world’s most influential women.
But she did have an idea about what it would be like to be an American.
“Growing up in India, I had a long-distance love affair with America,” Nooyi said in a 2010 speech to the Brennan Center for Justice. “I admired everything about this country — its ideals, its commitment to justice, equality and its willingness to break barriers.”
Nooyi has broken many barriers in rising from student immigrant to corporate titan. After earning a master’s of business administration degree at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976, Nooyi came to the United States to attend Yale University and study public and private management.
From there, her love affair with America took root. She graduated from Yale in 1980 and joint a Boston consulting firm, serving clients in the textiles and consumer goods industries.
Between 1986 and 1990, she worked for Motorola as vice president of corporate strategy and guided the company’s development of automotive and industrial electronics.
She gained her U.S. citizenship in 1990, and four years later, joined PepsiCo. and quickly rose to chief financial officer by 2001 after directing the company’s global strategy and internal restructuring.
Nooyi is the architect of PepsiCo’s long-term growth strategy called Performance with Purpose. The company wants to expand its business while it also expands its commitment to “investing in a healthier future for people and the planet.”
The idea is to make PepsiCo products healthier and find innovative ways to reduce the use of energy, water and packaging to protect the environment.
“To us, Performance with Purpose doesn’t mean we run our business normally and then do good deeds on the side,” Nooyi has said. “It doesn’t mean subtracting from the bottom line to boost our reputation or foregoing profits to ease our conscience. It means that we bring together what is good for our business with what is good for the world. It is about integrating purpose in everything we do.”
In 2011, Nooyi, 56, ran a company that had consumers in more than 200 countries, $60 billion in revenue and nearly 300,000 employees worldwide. PepsiCo has the world’s largest portfolio of billion-dollar food and beverage brands, including Quaker Oats, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and the eponymous Pepsi-Cola.
Nooyi serves as a member of a number of boards, including the U.S.-China Business Council, the U.S.-India Business Council, the Consumer Goods Forum, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and the Obama administration appointed her to the U.S.-India CEO Forum. She has served as the honorary co-chair for the World Justice Project.
“We measure everything we do along three planks,” Nooyi says of Performance with Purpose. “Human sustainability is how we transform our portfolio and address the twin problems of overnutrition and undernutrition while giving people healthier options. Environmental sustainability is about how we leave the world a better place and about finding innovative ways to reduce the use of energy, water, and packaging. Talent sustainability is about building a company where employees don’t just make a living, they can have a life and bring their whole selves to work.”
As the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 45-year history, Nooyi earns a total package of salary, bonuses and stocks worth close to $15 million a year. In 2010, she was named No. 1 on Fortune magazines list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in the World and routinely ranks in the top 10 of Forbes’ list. In 2009, she was named CEO of the Year by the Global Supply Chain Leaders Group.
Nooyi is married and has two daughters and lives in Greenwich, Conn. She enjoys cricket and rock-and-roll.