TN remembers PepsiCo's 'Iron woman'
While her colleagues have reportedly labelled her an 'iron woman', new PepsiCo boss Indra Nooyi's family and teachers here remember her as a fun-loving person who enjoys singing, playing guitar, a game of cricket and Tamil movies.
The Indian American's appointment this week as new chief executive of the global soft drink giant has done her alma mater, Madras Christian College (MCC), proud.
"I always remember Indra as a bubbly and smiling girl, joyful, very articulate, hard working and focused," said MCC principal VJ Philip.
"When others shied away from a task, she would come forward to complete it. Indra is someone who grabbed all opportunities that came her way with both hands," he said.
For example, she helped get advertisements for the college magazine, her teachers recalled. "I believe that the collage groomed her, giving her a liberal, wholesome education which allowed her to grow to her fullest potential," Philip noted.
Situated in the Seliyur forest in Tambaram on the edge of Chennai (known earlier as Madras), the MCC has been named among top 10 colleges in the country in an independent annual survey. Nooyi's rise to the corporate top has added to the glory of the college.
Nooyi graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, physics and chemistry from the MCC in 1976. She later joined the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kolkata, earning her MBA degree in 1978.
She worked for a short while at Mettur Beardsell and later at Johnson & Johnson where she helped in launching 'Stayfree', a brand of sanitary napkins. Wishing to learn more, Nooyi enrolled at Yale University in 1980 for a master's degree in Public and Private Management.
She often recalls how she went for her first job interview in the US "in a $50 suite from a budget store" and failed. For her next interview, though, she preferred the traditional Indian sari and she got placed with a prestigious management institution, Boston Consulting Group.
Nooyi's father worked for the State Bank of Hyderabad and her grandfather was a district judge. She is married to management consultant Raj Nooyi and has two daughters.
Born Indra Krishnamurthy, the 49-year-old has an entrepreneur brother in the US, Narayan Krishnamurthy, and a sister, Chandrika Tandon. Her aunt Aruna Sairam is a noted singer.
"In MCC, she formed a girls' band," Aruna recalled. She played the guitar, which she still plays, Aruna added.
"We are a closely knit family and I talk to her every week," she said.
When the "iron woman" was chosen to lead the soft drink major, it was her sister Chandrika who called their mother Shantha Krishnamurthy and told her there was some good news. Then it was Nooyi herself who called her up, asking her to watch television when her name was being flashed on many channels.
"As a mother, I am very proud of her accomplishments. It's all god's blessings," Shantha said.
"Indra is a Tamil movie buff and a big fan of old comedies starring Nagesh. She generally likes humour and making others laugh," she said.
She likes to visits India in December, during Chennai's music season, Shantha added.