PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Indra Nooyi on life after PepsiCo: No politics, family is priority

Indra Nooyi told Fortune magazine that she did not yet know what she wanted to do next, but added that she would not be running for office

New York: PepsiCo chief executive officer Indra Nooyi on Tuesday ruled out joining politics, and said that after 24 years at the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, it was now time to focus on the family. PepsiCo on Monday announced that Ramon Laguarta, 54, will succeed Nooyi as the CEO. Nooyi, 62, will step down on 3 October after 24 years with the company, the last 12 as CEO. She will remain chairman until early 2019 to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.

Nooyi told Fortune magazine in an interview that she did not yet know what she wanted to do next, but added that she would not be running for office.

“I’m not good at politics," the Chennai-born said. “I’m just a good worker bee." After the 2016 US presidential elections, Nooyi had said that Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss to Republican Donald Trump left her daughters and PepsiCo’s employees devastated, and there were serious concerns among the company’s workers, especially non-white employees, about their safety in an America with Trump as its President.

Being the CEO of a company is “all consuming," Nooyi said. “When you are the CEO, especially of such a large company, there’s only one priority, and that priority is being CEO. I think my family was short-changed a lot. The last 24 years, the PepsiCo family always came first. Now is the time to shift my priorities to my family."

Nooyi is married to AmSoft Systems President Raj Nooyi, and they have two daughters.

According to the Fortune report, before the announcement of Nooyi’s exit, PepsiCo stock was flat year over year and its beverage sales in North America had dropped for four consecutive quarters with consumers looking for alternatives to soda. Nooyi, however, said the timing of her departure was unrelated. “I look at our performance over a long period of time," she added. “The company is in great shape."

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Nooyi said talks about her transition started approximately one year ago as Laguarta was named PepsiCo’s president last July. “I have been in the company for 24 years, and it’s been a labour of love," Nooyi said in the interview. “At some point, you have got to sit back and say, what do I want to do with my life." She wants to see more women in management roles. “I think after stepping down as CEO I can work with other women to figure out how to get them to c-suite positions, as a mentor and supporter," she said. “I see the struggles women go through, and you cannot expect every woman to be a superwoman. It just does not work because there’s one constraint we all have, and that’s that there are only 24 hours in a day."

Nooyi, one of the world’s most powerful and influential business leaders, said leading PepsiCo has been the “honour" of her lifetime. Among the few executives to break the glass ceiling in corporate America, she also created history by being among the few India-born females to lead a global giant.

PepsiCo has been “my life for nearly a quarter century and part of my heart will always remain here," she said.

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