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Nooyi on mom's tale and low-cal colas

The PepsiCo Inc's President's first few lessons in management came from her mother, reports Prerna K Mishra.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 19:25 IST

Given her Indian rooots, it is no surprise that PepsiCo Inc's President and Chief Executive Officer Indra K Nooyi's first few lessons in management came from her mother. At the family dinner table back in Chennai, her mother would challenge Nooyi and her sister to explain what they would do if they were elected Prime Minister.

"She'd ask us one simple but compelling question: What will you do to change the world? I can't tell you how hard my sister and I competed to earn her vote. My mother was teaching us a lesson about possibilities and opportunities, but even more about responsibilities," says Nooyi who went on to become the first woman President and CEO of the $33 billion foods and beverages company.

It's only natural for Nooyi to walk down the memory lane on a day when she visited her homeland for the first time after becoming a power woman in the US corporate world. Dressed in a 'very corporate' black pinstripe suit, a string of pearls and a lot of confidence, Nooyi charmed Delhi's business elite on Monday before heading for her hometown Chennai to take a break with her family.

For Nooyi, who has worked with Asea Brown Boveri and Johnson & Johnson in her earlier roles, business would be a very good beginning point for changing the world. "Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 63 are countries. The other 37 are companies. Just think about the growing size and influence of business," she told a gathering of Indian industry captains at a function organised by the American Chamber of Commerce - India and the Confederation of Indian Industry on Monday.

For the company dogged in India by the controversy over pesticide residue levels in soft drinks, Nooyi's only solution is optimism. "India is our fastest growing market both growth and revenue-wise. It is an investment market for us. Two years ago, I committed an investment of $500 million for the Indian market to be spent in the next five years and we expect that to stay."

Reacting to the Health Minister's comments on banning colas in schools, Nooyi said: "We would rather look at the root of the problem. If obesity is the issue, we need to focus more on calories in and calories out. And we are ready to work with the government to take this forward. In any case, PepsiCo was the first company to remove trans-fats from its products."

To Nooyi, the success of PepsiCo should be judged by the fact that though the share of company's products being released into the market has increased over a period of time, the relative number of calories being released has gone down.

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First Published: Dec 18, 2006 19:25 IST