America's Best Leaders: Indra Nooyi, Pepsico Ceo

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She played lead guitar in an all-women rock band in her hometown of Madras, India. She was a cricket player in college. She sang karaoke at corporate gatherings. Today, Indra Nooyi presides over 185,000 employees in nearly 200 countries as the chief executive of PepsiCo. And she still performs on stage at company functions.

Nooyi came to the United States in 1978 at age 23 to earn her M.B.A. at Yale, where she worked as a dorm receptionist—opting for the graveyard shift because it paid an extra 50 cents per hour. Her parents had told her she was out of her mind and should have stayed in India and gotten married. "I always had this urge, this desire, this passion," she once explained, to "settle in the United States," where she is now
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She is trying to take the company from snack food to health food, from caffeine colas to fruit juices, and from shareholder value to sustainable enterprise. In doing so, Nooyi is attempting to move beyond the historic trade-off between profits and people. Captured in her artful mantra—"Performance with purpose"—she wants to give Wall Street what it wants but also, the planet what it needs. "It doesn't mean subtracting from the bottom line," she explained in a 2007 speech, but rather "that we bring together what is good for business with what is good for the world."

By 2010, Nooyi has pledged, half of the firm's U.S. revenue will come from healthful products such as low-cal Gatorade and high-fiber oatmeal. The company will eschew fossil fuels in favor of wind and solar. It will campaign against obesity.

This is, clearly, not business as usual. "People these days are bringing their principles to their purchasing," she said in the same speech. "We, in return, are bringing a purpose to our performance." If Nooyi can produce both wholesome foods and dependable profits, PepsiCo's future may be safe.

Yet fresh challenges to Nooyi's leadership abound, including the spiraling costs of commodities like cooking oil that go into the company's

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