“My Life In Full” by Indra Nooyi

I would recommend this book to every Indian student of business and practicing professionals as well for it was an absorbing read. The full title is “My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future” and it was first published by Portfolio in September 2021.

This is the story of Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi – a middle class Tamil girl born in Chennai, India in 1955, who we now know for having been the CEO of PepsiCo– one of the largest business corporations in the world. There were many firsts in her career. Ms Nooyi was the first woman to become the CEO of PepsiCo , the first person of colour and an immigrant to reach the highest position in a Fortune 50 corporation. For many years, she featured in the list of The Most Powerful Women in the world.

Like most middle-class families in Chennai- if not everywhere in India- the focus of her early life was on attaining a good education. She says in her conservative Brahmin family, “education was everything”. Naturally, from a young age she was accustomed to striving for excellence- a high priority for her family. In her early life, she looked up to her paternal grandfather, apart from her parents, for guidance and support in all that she did.

Nooyi speaks at length about their house in Chennai. We get considerable detail about her life- growing up with her elder sister, younger brother, parents, and grandfather -in a large house where many traditions were followed. She shone in her studies at the Holy Angels Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, run by Irish nuns, and later at the famous Madras Christian College. In both places, she was an excellent debater and took part in many extra-curricular activities. In those years, it was unheard of to have an all girls rock band but she was part of one!

She then did her Post Graduate Degree in Management from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta . Here she was one of the very few girls in the class, as also one of the few fresh graduates who did not have work experience. On graduation in 1976, she worked with Mettur Beardsell and Johnson & Johnson in India before leaving for the United States for a Master’s degree in Public and Private Management at the Yale University’s School of Management in 1978.

She was selected by the Boston Consulting Group in 1980. Even to this day she rates her experience there very highly. Then followed stints with progressively higher responsibilities at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, where again she achieved considerable professional success. She then joined PepsiCo in 1994. While still in her early 30s, she was in the Executive Group of a major US corporation. She became the President and Chief Financial Officer in 2001 and was appointed as the CEO in 2006. She held that high office till 2018. During her years at the helm of PepsiCo, the business revenues grew by 80 % to $ 63 billion. There were many strategic initiatives she introduced including her much admired Performance with Purpose program.

Ms. Nooyi is candid enough to admit that she had lucky breaks in her career. Fortunately for her, she had mentors who saw the potential in her and helped her develop skills by pushing her towards challenging assignments.

She got married in 1980 to Raj Nooyi. In the book, she writes at length about the struggles they had managing their careers and their growing family of two daughters. Here too she is quick to give credit to her support system by way of family, especially her mother, and other relatives from her husband’s family who pitched in to help them out. By the way, I never knew that Nooyi is a small village in the Dakshina Kannada district of my home state of Karnataka.

She is often asked about how it was to become a woman in the top echelons of corporate life. All over the world, the infamous glass ceiling frequently restricts women from progressing in their careers. Seldom do they reach the very pinnacle as Ms Nooyi did. In this book she shares her views and suggestions, based on her own experience and her observations after interacting with a wide cross section of women at work across all parts of the world.

Overall it was an interesting book. I admire Ms Nooyi for her candidness in describing her career, her family, and the organisations she worked for and led.

Her story is inspirational indeed!

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