Indra Nooyi may be in Joe Biden's Cabinet – here's a look at her take on some key issues concerning India and US

Indra Nooyi may be in Joe Biden's Cabinet – here's a look at her take on some key issues concerning India and US
Indra Nooyi with Joe BidenWikimedia Commons
  • Indian American Indra Nooyi served as the Chairman of Pepsico for 12 long years and stepped down in October 2018.
  • She is currently serving as a board member of US e-commerce giant Amazon.
  • Nooyi is being considered for the position of Commerce Secretary in the President-elect of the US Joe Biden’s cabinet.
Indian American Indra Nooyi is reportedly nominated for the position of Commerce Secretary in the President-elect of the United States (US) Joe Biden’s cabinet. Nooyi is one of the many accomplished women being considered for significant roles in the President’s cabinet.

“When I imagine the future of leadership, one face I picture is Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo,” that’s what Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who chairs the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, wrote in 2010. Kanter was not just praising Nooyi, it was a eulogy to globalisation itself.

After four years of Donald Trump administration, the rise of one of the biggest mascots of globalisation may be seen as a relief from countries like India, which are key exporters to the US. India also has a lot of grouse against the US for cracking down on H-1B visas and the pressure from Washington on trade tariffs, to name a few.

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However, in her earlier interviews, she has been quite measured even while batting for global trade. Here’s a look at Nooyi’s persona and her beliefs on key issues.

Chennai’s rebel child is leading change in America

Born in Chennai, Nooyi graduated from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and later went on to study at Yale School of Management in 1978. Nooyi has often spoken about being a rebellious child in a conservative family in South India.

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Indra Nooyi may be in Joe Biden's Cabinet – here's a look at her take on some key issues concerning India and US
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But the rebel at heart has gone on to make big changes in one of the biggest FMCG companies in the world – PepsiCo.

Nooyi served as the Chairman of Pepsico for 12 long years and stepped down in October 2018. She is currently serving as a board member of US e-commerce giant Amazon, being the second woman of colour, to be on the board of the Jeff Bezos-led company.

Nooyi – a master of managing large organisations smoothly

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Her journey at PepsiCo started in 1994, where she started as a Chief Strategist and then soon went on to be PepsiCo’s 5th CEO in 2006.

During her tenure at PepsiCo, its net revenue grew at an annualised rate of 5.5%. When she began her term as the company’s CEO, Nooyi successfully thwarted activist investor Nelson Peltz’s motive to split PepsiCo into two – beverages and snacks to be managed differently.

In fact, during Nooyi’s reign, PepsiCo again created a buzz in the stock market – the company’s share price more than doubling during her tenure.

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Indra Nooyi may be in Joe Biden's Cabinet – here's a look at her take on some key issues concerning India and US
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One of Nooyi’s most appreciated work formulas has been her design-led thinking that led to the company’s growth. Experts have documented this approach. She is also known to have frequented markets often to see how PepsiCo’s products were placed on the shelves. “We don’t sell products based on the manufacturing we have, but on how our target consumers can fall in love with them,” she had told the Harvard Business Review in an interview in 2015.

Will Nooyi restore global trade back to its glory days?

It is beyond doubt that Nooyi has been among the biggest faces representing the success of globalisation in the last few decades. By the time she stepped down as Pepsi CEO, almost a fifth of PepsiCo’s net revenues came from Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

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She did oppose Trump’s tirade against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and said this right after his election in 2016. “I'm sincerely hoping based on the talk we heard from our President-elect the day after the election, that what we heard before the election and what we are really going to see in action are quite different. That it is much more measured, more sensitive to the trade deals we have already. That we want to build this country the right way going forward and not necessarily retreat into isolationism.”

However, it may be too soon to expect her to reverse the setback to global trade under Donald Trump administration, which took a hard stance wherever it could. “Everyone recognises that global trade is good, at the same time when you are in recession and have extreme levels of joblessness in certain countries, protectionist tendencies are inevitable. The challenge is to talk our way through this and really craft the policy that threads the needle between globalization on the one hand and protectionist tendencies on the other hand,” Nooyi said in an interview to NDTV in 2010.

Nooyi's stand on H1B Visa

Indra Nooyi was among the 59 top CEOs of America who had signed a letter calling out Trump's H1B visa policy's severe consequences. The CEOs spoke up against the inconsistent immigrant decisions and wrote in the letter that "those shifts were "unfair" and created a risk of "unnecessary costs and complications."
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Ivanka Trump called Nooyi her mentor

Throughout her illustrious career, Nooyi has found a mention in almost every other influential or powerful list across the globe. She was also reportedly approached by Ivanka Trump to be the next World Bank chief.

When Nooyi was stepping down from PepsiCo, Ivanka Trump had taken to Twitter to celebrate her friend and "mentor."
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However, Nooyi has always been known to be a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton. When Clinton had lost the elections in 2016, Nooyi had said that she was seriously concerned about the safety of women, gay workers, and others.

Nooyi has clearly been able to make friends across ideologies and political beliefs.

Nooyi's bond with Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden

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When Kamala Harris was selected as Joe Biden's Vice Presidential candidate, Nooyi had taken to social media to share the excitement about her friend Kamala.


During Biden's tenure as the Vice President of the US, Nooyi was honored by Biden during an event hosted by the U.S. India Business Council (USIBC). In 2014, during lunch in honour of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to America, Nooyi was seated next to Biden.

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Nooyi has joked that her entry into politics could cause the third World War

When she stepped down as the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi was asked whether she would join politics. She had then replied that her outspoken nature would cause the third World War if she entered politics. "Me and politics don't mix at all. I am too outspoken, I am not diplomatic. I don't even know what diplomacy is. I would cause a third World War. Don't do it," she had said then.

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