Indra Nooyi: New Era of Business

Nooyi says PepsiCo's goal is to "create a defining corportation of the 21st century."

NEW YORK, April 14, 2009 – In a sold-out appearance at Asia Society headquarters, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi spoke with Asia Society President Vishakha N. Desai about the challenges and successes she has experienced in her career at the highest levels of international business.

The conversation between the two prominent Indian-American women touched on everything from Nooyi's enthusiasm for the New York Yankees to her assessment of President Obama's first hundred days in office. Nooyi described for the audience what it was like to lead a major global corporation at a time when economies are contracting worldwide, the public has expressed widespread disenchantment with corporate CEOs, and the threat of protectionism is on the rise.

"We are in an era of profound change," said Nooyi. "We can no longer be focused on the short term, we must think long term... It's just superhuman what is expected of us. Many of us are learning new skills. 'Rockstar' doesn’t work for any CEO."

PepsiCo's commitment to sustainable growth, defined by Nooyi as "performance with purpose," was another focal point of the discussion. "Talent sustainability is what I was particularly focused on," said Nooyi. "I wanted to create an environment where people can bring their whole selves... where they always hear from us not what they want from us, but what they need to hear." Nooyi explained that the idea of social corporate responsibility does not come at the expense of profits, but actually enhances long-term sustainability.

When Desai asked Nooyi to name her greatest accomplishment, Nooyi spoke proudly about the shift towards diversity at PepsiCo. "We have come a long ways from me being the first foreign-born person to be an executive; it's been an incredible journey," Nooyi said. "Our goal is to create a defining corporation of the 21st century. Nobody's going to remember you for delivering earnings to stockholders, they will remember you for the lasting impact you made on society and for being sustainable."

Reported by Terasa Younker

Part of the Hazen Polsky Foundation President's Forum Series