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She brings the fizz

That Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, president, CEO, and now chairman of PepsiCo, is an A-lister in the Indian-American community is as much a no-brainer as it was when the community chose her as India Abroad Person of the Year 2006.

One month after that honor, Nooyi was among three South Asian Americans and one Egyptian American who were presented with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' The American by Choice Awards, during a special naturalization ceremony co-hosted by the Department of State and the USCIS,
Forbes called her the fourth most powerful woman in the world. It also named her the Number 1 Most Powerful Woman in Business.
Photo: Paresh Gandhi
where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- who delivered the keynote address -- lauded Nooyi and the other recipients. Rice told the 50 immigrants who were naturalized at the ceremony held in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department, that Nooyi and the others were 'an inspiration to all Americans.'

Then, Time magazine in its May 14 issue heralding its 100 Most Influential People in the World -- a list that excluded President George W Bush -- had Nooyi in its section on 100 Builders and Titans. She was the only Indian American on that list.

Nooyi was the primary architect of Pepsi's restructuring and transformation, including the merger with Quaker Oats and the acquisition of Tropicana, and was instrumental in pushing for the addition of some of the world's strongest health and wellness brands to the company portfolio. Her stellar reputation as the company's chief strategist for over a decade had her predecessor as CEO and chairman Steven Reinemund, predict, 'PepsiCo is in extraordinarily gifted and capable hands.'

Since joining PepsiCo in 1994 as senior vice president of strategic planning, she has blazed a trail of glory. She is only the twelfth woman to head a Fortune 500 company, and the only Indian American woman to make the cut. She is also only the fourth member of the community -- after Raj Gupta, CEO, Rohm and Haas, Ramani Ayer, Chairman and CEO, Hartford Financial Services Group, and Surya Mohapatra, who heads Quest Diagnostics -- to head a Fortune 500 company. Now, as chairman of the $33 billion company, she is the first woman to hold the positions of Chairman and CEO in Pepsiís 42-year-old history, and all of this in a little over a decade!

After her bachelor's degree from the Madras Christian College -- which rightfully claims her as one of its distinguished alumni, Nooyi joined the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. In 1978, she arrived in the United States to do her master's in management from Yale -- 'on a whim' as she put it -- and there has been no looking back since. After six years directing international corporate strategy projects at the Boston Consulting Group, her next stop was Motorola, where she served from 1986 to 1990, rising to be vice president and director of corporate strategy and planning. She left in 1990 to serve as senior vice president, strategy and strategic marketing, Asea Brown Boveri.

In 2001, she became Pepsi's chief financial officer. Soon after, the buzz began again, that she was being groomed for the top spot. The rest is history.