Indra Nooyi, who played in an all-girl rock band in her youth, brings her ease at performing onstage to the boardroom at PepsiCo Inc. where she will become the new chief executive, those who know her said on Monday.
Nooyi, 50, will succeed Steve Reinemund on October 1 to become the food and beverage company's fifth CEO. She is expected by many on Wall Street to continue the company's record of strong, consistent growth.
Nooyi, who came from India to the United States to attend Yale School of Management, has been PepsiCo's president and chief financial officer since 2001. As a key player in much of the company's strategic planning over the last several years, analysts said she seemed groomed for the top job.
On a conference call Nooyi said that for the last five years, she and Reinemund, who is retiring to spend more time with his family, have worked very closely on everything related to PepsiCo.
Someone even described the relationship ... as 'completing each other's sentences', said Nooyi, who also played on a girl's cricket team.
Nooyi, who is still known to sing around the office, is the highest-ranking Indian-born woman in corporate America. She is now a citizen of the United States.
David Kolpak, analyst at Victory Capital Management, which owns 1.5 million PepsiCo shares, said the company is in very, very capable hands with Nooyi.
She has been a key ingredient in all the strategic changes that Pepsi has gone through in the last ten years, specifically the spin-off of the bottling (operations), the divestiture of the restaurants into Yum Brands Inc. and the acquisitions of Quaker and Tropicana, Kolpak said.
Those acquisitions helped PepsiCo diversify its products, as health-conscious consumers began moving away from sugary soft drinks toward healthier choices such as water or juices.
Given the success of PepsiCo with the movement into noncarbonated beverages, that was perhaps a feather in Nooyi's cap, said Bob Millen, portfolio co-manager with Portland, Oregon-based Jensen Investment Management.
Millen, whose fund owns roughly 1.3 million PepsiCo shares, said Pepsi's wide scope of products is key to his ownership.
Ken Harris, a partner in consulting firm Cannondale Associates, who worked with Nooyi as a consultant, remembered a November 2005 analyst meeting where she drew on her performance skills to make a large setting feel intimate.
In that meeting, while other executives presented from behind a podium with the usual slides to support their presentations, Nooyi sat at a table on the dais and held a fireside chat with 200 of her closest friends, Harris said.
She makes the setting intimate and talks to you like she's sitting right across the desk from you, Harris said.
She does it with a quiet forcefulness that you know she means business and you know she knows what she's talking about but she doesn't feel the need to have all this flourish of pyrotechnics going off, he said.
But occasionally Nooyi's directness can strike the wrong chord, such as when she sparked the ire of some Americans last year by likening the United States to the world's middle finger. She later issued a statement and an official apology.
Prior to joining PepsiCo in 1994, Nooyi, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, with her husband and two daughters, worked at Asea Brown Boveri Inc. She also worked at Motorola Inc., where she still serves on the board of directors.
(With reporting by Brad Dorfman in Chicago)