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Nooyi's growing clout in global business

July 03, 2009 11:01 IST

India-born PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has been mighty busy and mighty vocal in 2009, and it's clear that her clout in the world of business and finance, both in America and abroad, is growing.

All her efforts have begun to attract notice.

For example, just yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the selection process of William Dudley as the new director of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, in January 2009.

Most interesting in the article were the anecdotes about the vocal dissent Nooyi showed throughout the process. The 52-year-old Nooyi, a then-member of the Fed's Board of Directors, was reportedly dismayed that the she and other regional director had so little sway in the final selection process.

The 56-year-old Dudley, it's been said, was a 'protégé' of the man who formerly held the post, new US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Geithner, the story goes, was instrumental in ensuring that Dudley bagged the job, prompting complaints from some New York Fed directors, including Nooyi and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, that Geithner lobbied too vigorously for Dudley and too vigorously against other candidates.

Additionally, Nooyi was also reportedly critical during an audit-committee meeting late last year where she and other directors were briefed, ex post facto, on how the New York Fed handled the bailout of AIG.

"What are we doing here?" Nooyi reportedly asked, angered that the board had been kept in the dark about details.

In February, she stepped down from her position with the Fed, citing scheduling conflicts.

She's been in the news for other reasons, too.

Last month she travelled to China for a twelve-day 'intense immersion' programme in the Asian giant, a move that attracted considerable media attention. In addition to the usual destinations in China for international CEOs, Beijing and Shanghai, Nooyi also visited the western cities of Chongqing and Xian, as well as Inner Mongolia, a very rural area where Pepsi reportedly operates China's largest potato farms.

Nooyi's eye has been on China for some time, and she was recently quoted as saying, "China represents our single largest opportunity today outside the US. It's going to remain that way and will extend that lead. The opportunity is enormous."

To provide economic support to her vision, last year, Nooyi announced that Pepsi plans to invest $1 billion (over Rs 48 billion) in China.

The Madras Christian College graduate also fared well in a recent set of rankings by Forbes magazine, of the 25 'top gun' CEOs who kept their companies thriving during the global economic crisis.

Nooyi, at number seventeen, had the right long-term strategic vision and executed it well, despite the difficult times, the magazine said.

"PepsiCo dominates the markets it operates in. She runs the business carefully, in good times and bad," Forbes wrote.

Image: Indra Nooyi
Photograph: Paresh Gandhi