As one of the most successful brands in the world, PepsiCo began life back in 1898, and is now said to be worth a staggering $18.8 billion. With names such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Tropicana, Quaker foods and Walkers crisps under the PepsiCo umbrella, it’s an everyday brand that we’re all familiar with.
In order to steer PepsiCo to become the 29th most valuable brand of 2019 (according to the Forbes list), Indra Nooyi played a pivotal role in her 12 years as CEO.
A business icon is born
Indra Nooyi was born in India in 1955. From an early age, her parents installed in her the importance of getting a good education. After gaining degrees in her native India, she attended the Yale School of Management to undertake a master’s degree in 1980.
Following a series of managerial roles at companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, Indra started working for PepsiCo in 1994. By 2006, she had climbed the ranks to become the company’s CEO. As well as being the fifth CEO for the brand, she was the first female boss of the company, and of ethnic minority origin.
Success for PepsiCo
Indra is credited for steering PepsiCo into becoming one of the world’s biggest brands. During her 12-year tenure, she took charge of over 26,000 staff and more than 100 brands, boosting sales by a massive 80%.
Indra was particularly key in introducing healthier options to the brand – she took the lead in acquiring Tropicana and the Quaker Oats Company. This move was pivotal to elevating PepsiCo over its rival, Coca-Cola.
The savvy businesswoman also had a keen eye for detail when it came to product packaging. Not one to sit behind a desk, Indra would visit supermarket stores every week to see how PepsiCo products looked on the shelves. With a bounty of photos, she would then instruct her marketing teams on how to improve the packaging and placement of the brand’s products. Indra believed that a brand could only be successful if management stepped into the shoes of its customers.
As well as increasing PepsiCo’s profits, Indra successfully overhauled the brand’s IT system, despite resistance from critics. By digesting countless textbooks on technology, she gained the niche skills and knowledge necessary to ensure she was making the right decision for the business.
Being a female boss of a fortune 500 company wasn’t always easy for Indra, but traditional values instilled in her by her mother gave Indra confidence in her abilities to succeed. Indeed, playing the game ‘imagine you’re the president’ as a child, encouraged Indra to believe she could reach the top, regardless of her race or gender.
Despite her success, Indra has frequently regretted the fact that she hasn’t spent as much time with her family as she would’ve liked over the years.
Indra stepped down from her role as CEO at PepsiCo last year, although she remains on the board. Upon her departure, she wrote to staff to impart some pearls of wisdom that she’d learned over the years. These included to make the most of every minute, be lifelong students, create a clear vision, think both short and long term and be a good listener. She also wrote to the parents of her top executives thanking them for raising such amazing people.
Indra has received a huge list of accolades over the years, which have inspired countless other business professionals, especially women and ethnic minorities. She has been named Best CEO In the World, ranked in The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list, and has earned a place as one of the 25 Greatest Global Living Legends in a poll.
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© World Economic Forum / Remy Steinegger