Call it coincidence, a smart business move or both. While the controversy over pesticide-laced colas is taking the zing out of the softdrinks industry in India, PepsiCo has named Chennai-born Indra Nooyi as its new chief executive.
PepsiCo on Monday named the 50-year-old alumna of IIM Kolkata as its first woman boss. Nooyi will replace chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund on October 1 — and be come the second most powerful woman in America Inc (after Patricia Woertz who heads grain processor Archer Daniels Midland).
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to lead PepsiCo,” said Nooyi, currently president and CFO of PepsiCo, after the announcement.
At company functions, she can be occasionally spotted in a sari amid a sea of power suits. While she wears her Indianness on her sleeve, she has said it has not been easy. “Being a woman, being foreign-born, you’ve got to be smarter than anyone else,” said Nooyi, who was ranked No. 28 on Forbes list of 100 most powerful women in 2005. For some years now, Nooyi has been the highest-ranking Indianborn woman in corporate America. The Wall Street Journal named her on its list of “50 women to watch”.
Nooyi, who joined PepsiCo 12 years ago, has pushed the company to take risks. These included creating YUM! Brands Inc., which owns the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurant chains. She also led the initial public offering of Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. and the acquisition of Tropicana and Quaker Oats, thus mixing health food with fizzy drinks.
Before joining PepsiCo, Nooyi was senior vice-president of Asea Brown Boveri and vice-president of Motorola.
A story goes that a friend of Nooyi’s once rewrote Black Sabbath’s Iron man for her. The new version went: Driving them up the wall/Iron Woman rules them all. She could rule the bubble world.