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Powerful Women in Business: Indra Nooyi

CWIB focuses on empowering, preparing, and connecting young women in business in hopes that one day they will become their own leaders. As young women in business, it is important to acknowledge women who have paved the way in the corporate world. Especially so, taking into consideration that they are a woman in a male dominated career field. Today, we will be discussing Indra Nooyi, who is most known for being the CEO of PepsiCo. She has consistently been ranked among the world’s most powerful 100 women. For instance, she was ranked as the 2nd most powerful woman on the Fortune list in 2015 and ranked number 13 on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women. This article serves to highlight her accomplishments in hopes of offering some inspiration for CWIB members.


Indra Nooyi was born in Chennai, India and she did most of her schooling in India and got her bachelor’s degree in mathematics, chemistry, and physics from the Madras Christian College. She resided in India until she was accepted into the Yale School of Management where she completed her degree in Public and Private Management in 1980. She started working at PepsiCo in 1994 and became CEO in 2006. However, prior to her becoming CEO of PepsiCo, she worked in many different positions, all while making meaningful contributions to the company.

Time at PepsiCo

Before Nooyi became CEO, she served in many different positions within PepsiCo. From 1996 to 2000, Nooyi worked in Corporate Strategy and Deployment and Strategic Planning. Between 2001 and 2002, she was Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). These are just some examples of the positions she held and of some of the work she did while at PepsiCo. Of course while at PepsiCo, Nooyi accomplished many things, which got her recognized globally.

Restructuring of PepsiCo and Acquisitions

For starters, Nooyi was a major driving force in PepsiCo’s restructuring. In fact, just a few years ago people were questioning Nooyi’s role at PepsiCo. PepsiCo was losing market share and were skeptical of Nooyi’s ideas to restructure PepsiCo to be healthier. One aspect of restructuring that Nooyi was responsible for was hiring PepsiCo’s first chief design officer. According to a 2015 article titled “How Indra Nooyi Turned Design Thinking Into Strategy: An Interview with PepsiCo’s CEO” from Harvard business review, Nooyi said that “design thinking” helps inform companies of everything they do, from product creation to how their customers interact with their products. For example, PepsiCo created their touch screen fountain drink machine which allows their consumers to create their own flavored drink by adding different flavors to their drink. This was a product of “design thinking.” Tying back to Nooyi’s efforts to restructure PepsiCo to be healthier, Nooyi talks about the “Mountain Dew Kickstart” which is essentially Mountain Dew in a skinnier can with fewer calories. She stated that this makes women more comfortable to walk around with and design thinking helped with the creation of this product. This is only one of the many efforts to push PepsiCo to become a healthier company.

On top of contributing to PepsiCo’s major restructure efforts, Nooyi also took the lead in multiple acquisitions which increased PepsiCo’s profit by a few billion dollars. Some of these acquisitions include Tropicana, Quaker Oats, and Gatorade. These acquisitions not only brought more money to PepsiCo, but also brought upon a “competitive edge.” Tropicana occupied almost half of the juice segment, so even though this acquisition was initially not supported by other executives, it ended up benefiting PepsiCo greatly. When PepsiCo acquired Quaker Oats, they also acquired Gatorade, which took up 80% of sales in the sports drink segment. So as you can see, Nooyi contributed to significant acquisitions that benefitted PepsiCo in the long run.

Indra Nooyi has proven to be one of the most influential women CEOs due to her impactful work done while at PepsiCo. As mentioned before, it is important to recognize women in business who have paved the way for younger women. It is apparent that Nooyi deserves to be ranked the 2nd most powerful women on the Fortune list in 2015 and ranked on Forbes “Most Powerful Women” list. Her work is inspiring for all of us young women hoping to make a change in the business world and become leaders of our own.

By: Ashley Mattson

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