After years of being away from home, 54-year-old Indra Nooyi will spend a brief holiday in Chennai, checking out her new property in posh Poes Garden, catching up with the katcheri season and feasting on her favourite thayir sadam (curd rice).
Addressing the media in the city for the first time on Saturday, Nooyi, chairman and CEO of the US$35-billion PepsiCo, gave credit for her “dynamism” to the “two greatest democracies of the world”—India where she was born and brought up and the US which helped her meteoric rise in the corporate world. She was visiting Exnora zero-waste management centre at Pammal in suburban Chennai, a project sponsored by her company, as part of her four-day stay in the city.
Asked what had propelled her to such great heights, Nooyi said (laughing): “Thayir sadam (curd rice).” In a more serious vein, she added: “Two greatest democracies in the world have contributed (to my dynamism). I am a product of an education system that is so great (completing her BSc in Madras Christian College and MBA from the Indian Institute of Management,
Calcutta). But America mentored me.”
Speaking about her recent purchase of apartments worth Rs 4 crore in Poes Garden where she would have celebrities like former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and superstar Rajnikant as neighbours, Nooyi pointed out: “My mother still lives here and hence it is natural for me to buy another property here.” As to whether she planned to retire in the city where she was born and brought up, Nooyi said: “Well, I have some more years to work.”
During her brief stay here, Nooyi plans to catch up with the famous ‘sabha’ season in the city, known this time of the year for Carnatic music and dance programmes. “I would like to attend a few concerts,” she admitted.
Did she have any message for Chennai? “I remember the city used to be beautiful with so many trees, now it has expanded so much. But infrastructure has not kept pace with the expansion. My appeal to the state Government is that it should do something about this,” she said, adding: “Chennai is a city with great intelligence, great culture and great values.”
Earlier on Saturday, delivering a speech, Nooyi spoke how the way she ran the company “bore hallmarks of her upbringing” and drew a parallel to the Bhagavad Gita.
“The drama revolves around the conflict between two moral positions. Krishna’s insistence on doing your duty and Arjuna’s claim that action must generate good consequences. On the one hand, you have certain responsibilities no matter what the cost is; on the other, you want the outcome to be a good one. In modern business too we are trying to do both things. We are listening to both Krishna and Arjuna. We want to generate good consequences. We want to make a good return on capital. But we want to do our duty too.”