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Nooyi grabs US' media limelight

Indra Nooyi has worked for Johnson & Johnson in India, and has been based in the US for her 12-yr tenure at PepsiCo.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2006 14:28 IST

Indian American Indra Nooyi's appointment as the new chief executive of PepsiCo has caught the imagination of the American media with one leading daily citing it as a potent reason for the US to shun protectionist instincts.

"Nooyi isn't just the 11th woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She's also the latest of a growing number of foreign-born executives who do so," the Los Angeles Times said in an editorial on Wednesday, suggesting it reflects corporate America's new world.

"Her rise is another reminder that US companies' success abroad attracts hundreds of talented executives to the United States, which is enriched by their wealth and expertise. For this reason alone, policymakers and business leaders must play nice at the globalisation game," it said.

Caving to protectionist instincts and bashing foreign companies that hope to do business in the US, is bad enough when it cuts off Americans from vital international markets. It's downright counterproductive when it encourages retaliation and closes foreign markets to US multinationals such as PepsiCo, the daily said.

It's not just that it hurts corporate America's bottom line. It could also impede the flow of talent that sends executives such as Nooyi to US shores, it said, suggesting, "Globalisation may be a tiresome buzzword in some circles, but in corporate America it's a practical necessity."

Like Nooyi, who was born and raised in India, and several other foreign-born executives on Thursday, hold key positions at American companies, the daily noted, calling it no accident that often US companies see their fastest growth in foreign markets.

The dynamic and challenging nature of these markets makes them great proving grounds for young, ambitious executives. And often these executives rise from the local ranks, it said.

"Nooyi, who early in her career worked for Johnson & Johnson in India, has been based in the United States throughout her 12 years at PepsiCo. But analysts say that her appointment sends a message that the company is serious about its continuing role as a global company," the Los Angeles Times said.

The New York Times noted that Nooyi, PepsiCo's first woman chief executive in its 41-year history, takes over at a time when both PepsiCo and its rival, Coca-Cola, are fighting attempts to ban their drinks in some areas of India.

"This is a continuation of a positive trend of women heading up major US companies," it quoted Thomas J Neff, chairman of United States operations at the recruiter Spencer Stuart & Associates, as saying.

Deborah MSoon, vice president for executive leadership initiatives at the women's research organization Catalyst, said, "We haven't broken through the glass ceiling, but we are certainly making cracks in it."

Still, the trend remains slow for women. Only 16.7 per cent of corporate officers, the pool from which chief executives are usually chosen, Soon said, are women - a small rise from 15.7 per cent in 2002.

The Washington Times quoted Nooyi as saying she felt fortunate to be taking over at a time when PepsiCo was in such a strong position, with solid growth across all its business units.

"Indra Nooyi is truly a star," Citigroup analyst Bonnie Herzog was quoted as saying. "She has been very involved with every major decision PepsiCo has made over the past five-plus years and therefore we expect this transition to be very smooth."

A Chennai, India, native and graduate of the Yale School of Management, Nooyi stays true to her heritage by often wearing a sari to PepsiCo events, according to It quotes her as saying: "Being a woman, being foreign-born, you've got to be smarter than anyone else."

First Published: Aug 17, 2006 10:59 IST