A Cursory Look At India

“Over the past two years we focused intensely on becoming gender balanced and moved from having 14% women in our workforce to 20% today. This focus will continue in 2015," says Ashok Ramchandran, director, HR, Vodafone India”

India’s level of economic freedom is unchanged over five years. The state’s presence in the economy remains extensive through state-owned enterprises and wasteful subsidy programs that cause chronically high budget deficits. In the absence of a well-functioning legal and regulatory framework, a weak rule of law exacerbated by corruption in many areas of economic activity undermines the emergence of a more vibrant private sector. India remains a “mostly un-free” economy(2015 Index Of Economic Freedom)

However, more and more women have been on the rise in corporate India in various industries, holding key positions and leadership roles. "For gender diversity, while the improvements will be systemic, the acceptance will be personal," says Nishchae Suri, partner and head of people and change practice, KPMG in India.

Our case study today would be “Indra Nooyi” who recently emerged second in Fortune’s powerful women in business list. She is the sole Indian-Born executive in Fortune’s list of 50 most powerful women in business, which has been topped by General Motors CEO Mary Barra. Mrs. Nooyi was named President and CEO on October 1, 2006 and assumed the role of Chairman on May 2, 2007.

Indra Nooyi is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo. Mrs. Nooyi leads one of the world’s largest convenient food and beverage companies, with 2008 annual revenues of more than $43 billion. The company’s products are sold in approximately 200 countries, and it employs more than 198,000 people worldwide. Its principal businesses include Frito-Lay snacks, Pepsi-Cola beverages; Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana juices and Quaker foods. In total, the PepsiCo portfolio includes 18 brands that generate $1 billion or more each in annual retail sale (The Wall Street Journal)

Long before Indra Nooyi became CEO, she had her struggles as a young girl born in India where certain cultural values are upheld and restricts the girl child from exploring certain facets of life believed to be threaded by men
Nooyi was born in Madras, India, in 1955 and was a bit of a rule breaker in her conservative, middle-class world as she grew up in an Era where it was considered unseemly for young women to exert themselves, she joined an all-girls’ cricket team. She even played the guitar in an all female rock band while studying at Madras Christian College. After earning her undergraduate degree in chemistry, physics and math, she went on to enroll in the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. At the time, it was one of just two schools in the country that offered a master’s in Business Administration Degree or M.B.A
Nooyi began to feel that perhaps she was underprepared for the business world. Determined to study in the United states, she applied to and was accepted by Yale University’s Graduate School of management in New Haven, Connecticut. Much to her surprise, her parents agreed to let her move to America. The year was 1978 “it was unheard of for a good, conservative, south Indian Brahmin girl to do this”, She explained to Murray in the Financial Times. “It would make her an absolutely unmarriageable commodity to do that” She said

Nooyi quickly settled into her new life but struggled to make ends meet over the next two years. Though she received financial aid from Yale, she also had to work as an overnight receptionist to make ends meet. “My whole summer job was done in a sari because I had no money to buy clothes”, She told Murray. Even when she went for an interview at the prestigious business-consulting firm that hired business school students, she wore her sari since she couldn’t afford a business suit. Recalling that the Graduate School of Management required all first-year students to take and pass a course in effective communications, she said in the Financial Times interview that she learned “it was invaluable for someone who came from a culture where communication wasn’t perhaps the most important aspect of business at least in my time”

Nooyi serves on the board of trustees at the Yale Corporation, the governing board of Yale University. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, not far from PepsiCo’s headquarters across the state line purchase, New York. Her predictions that her American graduate education would hamper her marriage prospects proved untrue, for she married an Indian man, Raj, who works as a management consultant. They have two daughters who are nearly a decade apart in age and Nooyi occasionally takes her young child to work. The former rock guitarist is still known to take the stage at company functions to sing. Her job however, remains top priority. She admitted to Forbes journalist, Melanie Wells, that she strategizes 24-7 sometimes. “I wake up in the middle of the night and write different versions of PepsiCo on a sheet of paper”.

Nooya Indra is a good role model to emulate because she has broken through the barriers of Gender bias, financial constraints, communication barriers, family responsibilities and culture shock, Yet has been able to rise thus far in the business world.

Therefore, we name her one of the Women in Business Role models!

Source:, Encyclopedia of world biography

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