The Most Influential CEO in India


"As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future." -Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi has been listed as one of the most influential, or the most influential female CEOs for the past six years in Forbes Fortune 500. At a time when the executive search industry, corporations, governments, and the public are viewing it as more important than ever to increase the number of women in executive roles, it seems appropriate to examine the successes of one of the most significant business women in the world today.

Interestingly, Nooyi is from Madras, Tamil Nadu, India, and received an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Nooyi also attended Yale where she studied a Master's degree in Public and Private Management before she began working for Pepsi Co in 1994. Moreover, it was only seven years before she became President and CFO of the company. Equally, since taking the role, annual revenues have risen by 72%, and the position of the company has dramatically improved. Pepsi Co have strengthened their brand, and diversified the products that they produce.

Equally, like many other CEOs, more specifically female CEOs, Indra Nooyi started her executive career within the company in a corporate strategy role. Interestingly many other female CEOs, for example Ursula Burns, have achieved CEO positions by coming from strategy-based roles. On average, women coming from corporate strategy areas of business generally move to CEO level more quickly than female executives coming from any other area.

Notable, only 17% of executives in India are female, despite many women having similar educational and experiential backgrounds to Indra Nooyi. Similarly there is no doubt that Nooyi has worked extremely hard to get where she is today. What we should question is, why if hundreds or even thousands of women in India work just as hard, we are not seeing more progress in the recruitment of females for high level positions? Indra Nooyi herself serves as a representation of how effectual and valuable a diverse executive board can be. Business today should be evolving, and therefore it should reflect the society which we live in. Business after all is geared towards the consumer, and the world’s biggest economy today is women.

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This article was written by Helen Langley of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

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