In a spectacular ceremony held at lower Manhattan’s Cipriani on Tuesday, October 9th, Asia Society recognized Indra Nooyi, chairman and former CEO of PepsiCo for her extraordinary tenure at the helm of the iconic American corporation. Introduced by former U.S. President Bill Clinton — who called her “the real deal.”
The India-born Nooyi delivered an acceptance speech that cited her pride in running an enterprise championing women, sustainability, health, and wellness. “I believe that a company has to be more than creating value for shareholders, but for society as a whole,” she said.
In addition to Nooyi, Asia Society honored eight other individuals and groups: Wang Shi, the Chinese real estate developer and advocate for environmental sustainability; Mira Rai, child soldier turned champion distance runner from Nepal; Munjed Al Muderis, a doctor who fled Iraq only to become a pioneering surgeon in Australia; the founders of Koolulam, a musical initiative buildings bridges through song in Israel; the remarkable, award-winning Afghan Girls Robotics Team; heroes who saved lives during Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster; the incomparably brave and determined White Helmets of Syria; and, in their first-ever appearance on American soil, survivors from this summer’s incredible rescue at Thailand’s Tham Luang caves.
The fifth annual Asia Game Changers awards were a celebration of remarkable people from a vast array of ages, professions, and nationalities. But, as President Clinton said: “Our differences ma
PepsiCo reported better-than-expected earnings Tuesday, with the company’s 16 percent boost in profits signaling a strong sendoff for chief executive Indra Nooyi on her last day in the position. Core earnings per share came in at $1.59, an increase of 7 percent. The company reported third-quarter net income of $2.49 billion, a 16 percent bump from $2.14 billion the year before. The company said it expects at least 3 percent organic revenue growth for the full year.
Nooyi announced in August that she would step down after 12 years at the helm of the food-and-beverage giant and will stay on as chairman until early 2019. During her tenure, Pepsi reached into snack categories offering organic, healthful alternatives to colas and chips, including Sabra hummus and Bare Foods, a maker of fruit and vegetable snacks. Nooyi’s departure also highlighted the relative lack of female leaders — and particularly women of color — at the top of major corporations.
Nooyi was succeeded by Ramon Laguarta, who has been Pepsi’s president since last year and has been with the company for 22 years.
In a twitter post, Nooyi said: “I will continue to love this company even after I pass the baton tomorrow to @ramonlaguarta, a terrific leader who cares deeply about our business and our people. Thanks to our amazing team for propelling us forward these past 24 years. I can’t wait to see what’s next!”
Through a LinkedIn post, Nooyi offered some parting words to her staff. “As I sat down to write this note—my last as CEO—I felt a surge of emotions. All of you—my PepsiCo family—have held a special place in my heart since the day I joined this company 24 years ago. In the weeks since my departure was announced, I’ve heard from so many of you in so many different parts of the world. And while I haven’t had time to respond to all your messages, I’ve read each and every one, some with tears in my eyes. There are no words to describe how much they mean to me, how deeply I’ve been moved by the outpouring of love.
“So, while I will remain on as chairman until early next year, I’ve been in a reflective mood lately, and recently re-read my very first letter to you all, from the summer of 2006. ‘We face an ever-more-challenging business environment,’ I wrote. ‘And we need to get out in front of events and shape them, rather than to wait and be buffeted by them. This means we will have to be bolder and more creative than ever before.’
“And over the last 12 years, that’s exactly what we’ve done. That’s exactly what you’ve done. You have helped make this company the icon it is today, and you have taught me so much through your ingenuity, commitment to excellence, and passion for serving your communities.
“So, while I know this is the moment I’m supposed to gently lay down the reins, I hope you will indulge me one last time as I share some reflections, some lessons, on what I’ve learned during my tenure—lessons that have guided me throughout my career, and that I hope may be of use to you in the years to come.
“First, whether you work in operations, sales, R&D, or any of our functions, always have a clear, compelling vision for what you want to accomplish. As it is written in the Book of Proverbs, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ And I’ve found that to be true for all of us, no matter our role in the company.
“Second, focus on the short-term and the long-term. Yes, you need to hit your short-term targets, but always try to do so in a way that’s sustainable over the long haul, a way that balances the company’s level — and duration — of returns, a way that generates a profit while also making a difference, always advancing the values of Performance with Purpose.
“Third, bring people along with you. No matter how smart your strategy, success or failure usually comes down to one thing: the team. In everything you do, find teammates who can help execute your vision and empower them to succeed.
“Fourth, be good listeners. When someone gives you feedback, assume positive intent. Assume they’re genuinely trying to help. Think their words over, and be willing to challenge your assumptions. I promise, it will make you better associates and better people.
“Fifth, be lifelong students. Our world is changing rapidly all around us, and if you want to continue to thrive in the years ahead, you’ll need to continually educate yourself. Visit our Lifelong Learning Library in Purchase, take a course at PepsiCo University, listen to podcasts or search Google—however you do it, make your ongoing education a priority.
“Finally, think hard about time. We have so little of it on this earth. Make the most of your days, and make space for the loved ones who matter most. Take it from me. I’ve been blessed with an amazing career, but if I’m being honest, there have been moments I wish I’d spent more time with my children and family. So, I encourage you: be mindful of your choices on the road ahead.
“Looking to the future, I have no doubt that PepsiCo’s best days are still to come. Ramon is a great executive and one of the hardest-working, most humble people I know. A global leader who knows our business inside and out, he is exactly the right person to lead PepsiCo at this moment. And he is taking over a team that is one of the strongest, most tightly-knit in our industry or any industry.
“Serving as your CEO has been the honor of a lifetime. Now it’s on to the next adventure—for us all. Thinking about my life beyond PepsiCo, I’m reminded of the words of the great Sufi mystic Rumi. ‘Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes,’ Rumi teaches. ‘Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation.’
“To all my colleagues, friends, and family, thank you for making the last 24 years special beyond words. Though I will no longer be in the office every day, I take comfort knowing that we will never truly be apart, because I have loved this company, and each of you, with all my heart and soul. And I always will. With deepest affection, Indra. Nooyi will remain the chairman of the company until early 2019.”
Nooyi said that over the past three years, Pepsi has seen consumers increasingly push for health and wellness options, including whole grains or zero-calorie flavored waters. Even while there can be varying opinions on artificial sweetness or high-fructose corn syrup, millennials are clearly driving a trend toward healthier foods and beverages, she said, adding that prepared meal options or home delivery has also helped remove barriers to healthier products.
Asked on an earnings call what she views as Pepsi’s biggest opportunities and challenges ahead, Nooyi said there was more opportunity to explore how snacks can act as mini-meals. That can include snacks paired with dips or sports beverages that can be framed as more holistic, nutritional meal options.
In her final remarks, Nooyi said that “even though I still have a lot of fuel left in my tank,” she was ready to finish out her years as chief executive. Nooyi praised the company’s achievements, ranging from investments in human rights and clean drinking water to nutritious retail options, and said that between 2006 and 2017 the company’s net revenue grew by more than 80 percent. Pepsi added a new billion dollar brand almost every other year, she said.