Lunch Keynote by Indra Nooyi

9 Aug

Probably the most unexpected highlight of BlogHer11, was getting to listen to Indra Nooyi’s amazing Keynote conversation with Willow Bay. Particularly of interest was Indra’s wonderful down-to-earth perspective on what her brand (PepsiCo) should be working towards to become both successful and purposeful.  Ms. Nooyi sat down for a little over an hour over lunch, to answer questions.   She was extremely forthright about the need for CEOs to interact more with women bloggers.  I have to whole-heartedly agree.  She showed both an amazing passion for her brand’s portfolio, but also gave some genuine and delightful insight into her brand that has definitely helped PepsiCo’s brand equity.

Why did we have the financial melt down?
Indra believes that the financial melt down occurred primarily because companies focused too highly on the monetary aspects of capitalism without considering the communities that were contributing towards their success. Social issues can be greatly improved by a co-opt partnership between government, corporations, and community.  The meltdown was a lack of these things. In her opinion, capitalism ran amok.  It was blatant capitalism without a concession.
As the chief architect of PepsiCo’s Performance with a Purpose roadmap, Ms. Nooyi hopes to not only broaden PepsiCo’s portfolio, but also their ability to impact the communities (whether local or cultural) they operate within. Performance with a Purpose,  is about making sure the goals are defined to do something the right way for the long term gain of everyone, than the short term gain of stock holders.  If companies fail to impact stake holders, they cannot be successful.
“Companies should do better by doing better.”
The Performance with a Purpose also means that individual employees can take pride in the ability to really contribute to a solution.  This increases moral and overall pride in the company.
PepsiCo’s portfolio has recently started expanding to “Good for You” products.  Why?
Firstly, it does make business sense.  According to Ms. Nooyi, the “Good for You” market is growing 3 times faster than the “treats” market.  Obviously, for any business it is a sound investment in the future.  However, more importantly to Indra from her personal compass, she feels it is only right that she think of those who buy her brand’s products as part of her family. If she wouldn’t let them eat it, she should seriously consider if it is a good choice for PepsiCo.
Should the government regulate soda and other wasted calories through taxation?
The first question Ms. Nooyi tries to ask, is what the competing viewpoint thinks and why they believe what they do.  If this is being done to curb obesity, for example, her next question is- What causes obesity? It’s a mismatch of calories in and out.  This mismatch is not solely related to soda and sweets consumption.  Think about it -you go to a franchise restaurant and the calories for an appetizer far outweigh the total calories allowed for a meal and a snack combined. We need better portion control (which is difficult to pursue because people run may feel they are being cheated) and to look at the issue as a whole.
A holistic approach that encourages evaluation of calorie intake, physical activity and incentives for better nutritional choices are some of the things she thinks would have a more positive impact than a tax.  There are no subsidies for farmers to sell quality food on the market, and that hurts their ability to compete with treats and other products and lifestyles.  Interestingly enough, the beverage industry is the only industry where 40% of the total offerings have zero calories.
What does it take to be a good CEO (leader)?
The world before 2007 and today are radically different in her mind. Even if there was an old rule book, a “CEO’s  Guide to Leadership Vol. 4”, it would be obsolete. There are some genetic attributes that are obviously helpful, but the soft skills, are so different now.
    • Whereas the world used to be very Western orientated the shift is moving toward the Eastern World.
    • Religion is moving to very different spectrums in debate around the world.
    • Stake holders are becoming more and more important than shareholders.
    • Women are shifting from a very sheltered micro level of power to a very sizable and noticeable level of power.
For CEO’s it’s a lonely world with very few people you can talk to.  CEO of today is vastly different than the CEO of several years ago. That’s why there have been shifts in CEO’s recently.  The CEO of today has to have eQ and social side.  Millennials want to feel cared about and valued, so as we move into a workforce primarily stocked by the millennial generation, a personal connection will be vital.  A lot of women CEO’s are often better at humanizing because it’s how they are nurtured to be better communicators.
What does Pepsico do to make it a place where people want to stay?
Performance with a Purpose, has been great in unleashing emotions, because employees feel much better knowing their performance has a reason for evaluation and success.  Having women in leadership has also been helpful to including the woman’s  mindset into what is being sold and how. Furthermore,  inclusivity training has been important because it helps people understand how to include different people – not necessarily based strictly on cultural diversity, but also on personality types.
What advice do you have for women running small business?
You need to network.  You need to work on building that network for yourself. Learn from the experience of your peers.  Watch your cash flow.  Cash is King.  It’s critically important to learn everything you can about managing your cash flow.  There are no set of rules that say if you do this, you will be successful.  If you do that, you won’t.  Instead become intimately acquainted  with your business and you’ll be on the right track.
I will also be adding an additional post on Indra Nooyi’s 5-C model of success.   If you’ve liked what you read, or have additional comments or questions, please feel free to comment below! 


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