Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman of PepsiCo, accepted the Westchester Global Leadership Laureate Award from the Business Council of Westchester at its Annual Fall Dinner on October 22.
More than 900 people turned out to hear Nooyi at the at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook. Mrs. Nooyi, PepsiCo’s first female chief executive, stepped down from her position as CEO on October 3 after 12 years at the helm.
In a one-on-one interview with BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon that was engaging, insightful and sometimes funny, Mrs. Nooyi discussed her distinguished career at PepsiCo and her plans for the future. Mrs. Nooyi also announced a $100,000 PepsiCo grant to the Westchester Community College Foundation to fund a program for disadvantaged students who want to pursue careers in STEM.
Gordon said Mrs. Nooyi’s candid interview was an inspiration and has left the business community buzzing.
“The evening was a tremendous success.’’ said Gordon. “People have not stopped talking about it. The event was even featured in an article that appeared in USA Today this week.”
Mrs. Nooyi was born in Chennai, in Southern India, and joined PepsiCo in 1994, and became its Chief Executive Officer in 2006. She is credited with making the company more profitable as well as being the chief architect of Pepsico’s Performance with Purpose pledge, which introducing healthier, more nutritious products and initiatives to reduce its environmental footprint.
In response to a question from Gordon about the inspiration behind her Performance with Purpose vision to make PepsiCo a more socially-conscious company, Nooyi said the origins stemmed from efforts to recruit young talent to the company. She said she wanted to give them a reason to identify with the company’s mission and feel that they were doing something to make the world a better place.
“When people come to work at PepsiCo they come not just to make a living. They also want to have a life,” she said.
Mrs. Nooyi, when asked about her experience as an immigrant, said that for the most part she had felt encouraged and supported throughout her career.
“I have traveled around the world and I have yet to see a country that is so supportive and welcoming of people who are different than what I experienced in the United States.”
What would she have done differently?
“I did the best that I could, based on the knowledge and information I had and the caliber of the team I had. And I think I have the best team in our industry,” said Mrs. Nooyi.
When asked what lies ahead, Mrs. Nooyi said stepping down as CEO at PepsiCo was just the beginning of a new phase in her life and that she expects to do even greater things in the future.
“I am not doing it for richness or for running a company. I am doing it out of a sense of duty and purpose. I think that’s what’s going to define me,” she said.
BCW Board Chairman Anthony Justic said the evening’s record-breaking turnout was due not only to Nooyi’s appearance, but to the growing success of the Business Council of Westchester, which he said continues to grow its membership.
“I am pleased to report that we have done it again with the largest sponsorship in the history of this dinner,” said Justic. “It’s not only proof of the power of tonight’s deserving honoree Indra Nooyi, but also reflects the strength and power of the Business Council of Westchester as the most influential economic development and advocacy organization in this county.”