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PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi, leaves her CEO crown this fall

posted onAugust 28, 2018

PepsiCo CEO and Chairman Indra Nooyi, among the world's most prominent female business leaders, will step down after 12 years leading the beverage and snack giant. 

Nooyi, 64, will be succeeded as CEO by PepsiCo's president Ramon Laguarta, 54, on Oct. 3 but she will continue as chairman of the board until early 2019. Laguarta, a 22-year veteran of the company, has been president since September, overseeing global operations, corporate strategy, public policy and government affairs.

The India-born businesswoman has been with PepsiCo for 24 years. Before becoming CEO, she held a variety of roles, including chief financial officer and vice president of corporate strategy.

Under Nooyi's leadership, the company's sales reached $63.5 billion (€55 billion), up 80 percent from when she started 12 years ago. PepsiCo shares have risen 78% in the same period. 

"Growing up in India, I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to lead such an extraordinary company," Nooyi said in series of Tweeter posts.

She also described "mixed emotions" about leaving the top job.

“Today is a day of mixed emotions for me. @PepsiCo has been my life for 24 years & part of my heart will always remain here. I'm proud of what we've done & excited for the future. I believe PepsiCo’s best days are yet to come” she tweeted. 

"She has delivered a strong and consistent financial performance, managing with an eye toward, not only the short-run, but the long-run as well. As CEO, she grew revenue more than 80%, outperforming our peers and adding a new billion-dollar brand almost every other year" said the company in a statement. 

indra nooyi family

(Indra Nooyi with husband Raj K. Nooyi and their two daughters. Photo: Courtesy of horatioalger)

Nooyi was born in 1955 in Madras, now Chennai, India and grew up in a middle class family. She received a bachelor's degrees in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from Madras Christian College of the University of Madras in 1974 and a Post Graduate Programme (MBA) from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 1976. 

She left India at the age of 23 to study at Yale, where in 1980 she earned her master’s degree in public and private management. 

She went on to work for Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and  then held strategy positions at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri. She joined PepsiCo in 1994. 

However, it was after becoming CEO in October 2006, that Nooyi cemented PepsiCo’s dominance in the international food and beverage market.

She is also largely credited with re-shaping PepsiCo,  inking 80 tactical deals, including acquiring Quaker Oats — and its sports drink Gatorade brand — and shifting attention to healthier drinks, such as juices and teas, over sugary sodas. 

Nooyi has spoken openly about her path from India to the top of  one of the most successful food and beverage companies in the world, most recently at the Forbes Women's Summit in June. 

“I started to depend more and more on my brains and my hard work as opposed to how I looked or how I talked. Think of me not as a complete package, but a brain.” 

Forbes ranked her on the 2008 through 2017 lists of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. 

Speaking on an episode of the "Freakonomics" podcast Nooyi revealed her strategy for maintaining peace in her household. 

She told host Stephen Dubner that her mother "believes that these jobs [like the job of CEO] give you crowns, and leave those crowns in the garage when you come home. Don't try to pretend that you're still the big boss, because you're not." 

Nooyi married Raj K. Nooyi, president at AmSoft Systems, in 1981. She has two daughters.

With Nooyi's departure, the rest of PepsiCo's senior leadership team will remain unchanged, the company said. Her departure leaves only 24 women leading Fortune 500 companies. Just more than a year ago, there were 32 women among Fortune 500 CEOs.

As corporate America is losing one of its few female CEOs, Nooyi remains an inspiration for many across India and around the world.