Indra Nooyi, the chief executive officer of the PepsiCo beverage and snack food corporation, will soon be stepping down after 12 years at the helm of the company, to be replaced by the company’s global operations chief, Ramon Laguarta.
Nooyi, born in India and one of only a few women to head a Fortune 500 company, is widely credited with having sustained PepsiCo through the troubling recession and transitioning the business into a broader-based and more successful corporation.
According to CNN, PepsiCo saw sales grow by roughly 80 percent under Nooyi’s leadership while the business expanded by acquiring other smaller corporations to add to its portfolio of beverages and snack foods.
Nooyi, 62, worked for the business for 24 years and ascended to the top position in 2006, reportedly earned nearly $87 million over the past three years, some $31 million of that in 2017 alone.
“Growing up in India, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company,” she said in a statement.
To be sure, PepsiCo has lagged behind chief rival Coca-Cola as well as the S&P 500, on which its stock is listed, in terms of stock performance, but its success is nevertheless undeniable as it dealt with the down economy and the shift of many Americans away from sugary drinks and junk food.
Nooyi has been credited with being behind the push for PepsiCo to expand into healthier snack foods to compensate for slumping sales of carbonated beverages, and resisted efforts by activist investors to separate the company’s healthier snack foods from the not so healthy sugary drinks and junk food snacks, which likely would have hampered or destroyed both aspects of the company.
“Ms. Nooyi’s smart thinking and her sound vision for PepsiCo is the key reason that the company has scored so many successes, from seeing off activist investors to its expansion in overseas markets,” stated Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.
“However, it was her insistence on building up and maintaining a strong snack business that was most prescient,” he added. “With demand for soda under pressure, PepsiCo can now take comfort in the fact that it has a balanced portfolio of products.”
MarketWatch noted that shareholder returns of PepsiCo increased by 162 percent under her guidance, the value of individual shares nearly tripled and the company’s revenue nearly doubled from $35 billion in 2006 to $63.5 billion in 2017.
Despite her success, Nooyi is ready to move on to other things, perhaps “listen to some music, take a walk in the woods.”
“I’ve had a wonderful time being CEO, but at some point you sit back and say, look, it’s a responsible move to effect an orderly transition and to have somebody else take over the leadership of this company,” she said in an interview. “Being a CEO requires strong legs and I feel like I ran two legs of a relay race and I want somebody else with nice strong legs and sharp eyes to come and lead this company.”
CNN noted that Nooyi will temporarily stay on as the chairwoman of the board of directors until some time in 2019, at which point the transition to new leadership will be complete.
Nooyi’s rise to success as an Indian-American businesswoman, guiding a major corporation through troubling times and emerging with a better-situated and more valuable company than when she first took the helm, is an inspiring example of excellence and hard work.