Join Australia’s business leaders for a first class, candid, dinner experience with one of the world’s most influential women. Hosted by the Growth Faculty, early bird tickets are still available for Women’s Agenda readers. (Partner Content)
She studied at Yale, climbed ranks at some of the world’s largest and most powerful companies and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People on more than one occasion. It’s fair to say that Indra Nooyi has earned her stripes several times over.
Yet, while irrefutably one of the world’s most impressive business leaders, Nooyi is more critically a symbol of hope for aspiring women the world over—and particularly those in developing countries.
Born in Madras (now Chennai) India, Nooyi quickly became an anomaly of the best kind. She pushed through a patriarchal, conservative society to earn two degrees, followed by a master’s in management at one of America’s Ivy League universities, Yale.
While her family’s wish was for her to be married young, her father and grandfather held higher aspirations for her. They wanted her to explore the world, study hard and build a purposeful career.
During a panel event hosted by Forbes in the US last year, Nooyi recalled an incident when her sister had been admitted to a very prestigious school outside of their city in India. When she’d approached their mother about going, she was swiftly told she’d need to get married before accepting. Outraged, her sister refused, prompting Nooyi’s mother to issue a threat: “If you go, I’m going to fast until I die”.
At this time, both Nooyi’s grandfather and father stepped in to confirm that they’d already paid the deposit and her sister would be attending the school irrespective of their mother’s wishes.
Nooyi remembers this as a particularly pivotal moment where “the men in our family said: ‘hey, you’re not going to constrain the women’”.
Ultimately, this unconditional familial support paved the way for Indra Nooyi to become the most celebrated woman in corporate America and indeed, the world. Shortly after finishing her master’s, Nooyi secured senior strategic roles at Boston Consulting Group, Motorola and robotics company Asea Brown Boveri.
In 1994, she joined FMCG juggernaut PepsiCo as chief strategist. Determined to make her mark, Nooyi convinced the company’s CEO early on to drop its restaurant division, comprising franchises Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The decision was deemed hugely controversial at the time but allowed PepsiCo to branch successfully into new, previously uncharted spaces, like health foods.
This decisive, bold leadership soon led Nooyi to take over the role of CFO in 2001 before becoming chairman and CEO in 2006.
Last year, after a 24-year tenure at PepsiCo in which Nooyi transformed the company and grew profits from $35 billion to $63.5 billion, she made the decision to step sideways into a new challenge as board director of ecommerce giant, Amazon. In doing so, she became the fifth female on a board of 11 and the second intercultural woman.
Indeed, it’s clear that Indra Nooyi’s star is still ascending with Forbes surmising that: “Indra Nooyi may have left PepsiCo but her contribution to leadership has far from ended.”
In June 2019, Nooyi will speak at exclusive events in Melbourne and Sydney hosted by The Growth Faculty who last year brought out Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai.
Nooyi will provide unique insights on:
- Driving sustainable growth through disruption
- Design thinking and innovation
- Re-invention – new markets, new products
- Purposeful leadership
- Resilience in the face of resistance
- Leadership essentials for the next five year