Indra Nooyi on cherishing Motherhood and her Indian roots
“I’m so secure in myself; I don’t have to be American to play in the corporate life”. - Indra Nooyi, President and CEO, PepsiCo.
Among her many rankings and distinctions, inclusive of a Padma Bhushan in 2007, Indra Nooyi also has the honor of being on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Moms of 2012. She has been ranked 3rd and shares the credit with Hillary Clinton, US First Lady Michelle Obama, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Gone are her days of rebelling by joining rock bands and playing cricket, Nooyi’s responsibilities involve juggling a high-pressure career at one of the world’s best known corporate brands, while also taking care of her husband, her two daughters and their home in Fairfax Country, Connecticut. That apart she is on the Board of a number of companies, is regularly invited to speak about women’s leadership in business at various summits, and is continuously approached for business advice by legions of aspiring female tycoons.
Nooyi however, has her feet planted firmly on the ground, and her social and spiritual roots remain in her home state of Chennai, India, where she spent her growing years with her family and sister. After going through an initial identity crisis while seeking employment in the US, post-graduation, Nooyi had an enlightening moment through a professor who advised her to stick to her roots and remain comfortable in her own skin, rather than endeavor to be someone who she was not comfortable with; smartly, Nooyi chose to incorporate this advise, and today, walks into business meetings wearing her sari in which she is most comfortable, and also walks barefoot in the office, a move which is unheard of in other corporate offices. She is a devout follower of Lord Ganesha and gifts idols to colleagues and friends. Her devotion appears to have caught on with some of her co-workers who also worship the God. She maintains friendly and respectful relationships with her colleagues and does not believe in formal boundaries pertaining to conduct and communication.
As a mother, Nooyi is quoted as saying, “If my kids call in the middle of a meeting, I take the call”. While she admits that managing time is always a struggle due to her hectic professional life, she makes it a point to never ignore her children’s needs. In an interesting addition to her office receptionist’s daily tasks, the receptionist is well-versed with her children’s schedules, and is able to take some decisions on behalf of Nooyi when they are unable to reach her. For example, when her daughter calls the office and asks if she can play Nintendo, the receptionist immediately asks her typical “mom” questions such as “Have you completed your homework”, and “have you eaten your snacks”, post-which permission is granted or denied on Nooyi’s behalf. This interesting style of management is unique, and ensures that the children are never neglected, and further intensifies the amiable bond between Nooyi and her staff.
Nooyi’s spiritual leanings are well-known in public, and she sticks to them regardless of her lifestyle which is distinctly American. Visitors who enter her posh residence will be required to take their shoes off as per customary Indian tradition, and will be treated to the scent of burning incense from the large prayer room. Nooyi has not forgotten her love for music, and enjoys playing Carnatic music at her residence. She is also fond of visiting temples and tries making a trip to Tirupati temple in India annually for her share of spiritual bliss.
She attributes her grounded, balanced approach and calm state of mind to her spiritual beliefs, her supportive husband and her wonderful, affectionate children. She has none of the trappings of a stereotypical business magnate, and instead is approachable, humble, warm and friendly to those around her. She credits her mother for bringing her up with the right values, and states that sticking to these values have helped her attain the credibility that she enjoys today. She is the epitome of success, simplicity and humility, and it is no wonder that she is also as a result, one of the world’s most powerful influencers in business.