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Indra Nooyi’s roadmap to become good global corporate citizens

Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Worldwide, was the Chief Guest at the Indian Institute of Management – Calcutta’s 50th Annual Convocation on Saturday, April 4, 2015. Following is the full text of her delightful address on what makes good and responsible corporate citizens. Nooyi herself is an alumnus of IIM-C, having graduated in 1976 BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | April 6, 2015
Indra-Nooyi Indra Nooyi
Good evening everyone. Thank you, Chairman BalaKrishnan, Director Chattopadhyay and all the deans and Chairpersons of Academic Programs for welcoming me.  It is great to be back at IIM- Calcutta. Graduates, proud families and loved ones, thank you so much for inviting me here to speak to you today, and congratulations on this extraordinary achievement. As I was thinking about what I would say to you as you conclude your business education, I was reminded of an old story about a new MBA and his father who went on a camping trip together. After hiking all day, the two men arrived at their campsite, set up a tent and fell asleep. Some hours later, the older man woke his son, the new MBA. "Look up at the sky,” he said, “and tell me what you see." The MBA replied, "I see millions of stars." "What does that tell you?" his father asked. The MBA, remembering his education, pondered for a minute. "Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.” The MBA then turned to his father. “Dad, what does it tell you?" The father was silent for a moment, then said, “I think that someone stole our tent.” I love this story for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that an MBA transforms the way you view the world. The degree you’re receiving today illuminates new approaches to every situation. Second, as the father reminds us, you also need to see details as well as the big picture. You can’t overlook what is right in front of you… And today, right in front of me, is truly an amazing view. Graduates, I can see the excitement on all of your faces. I can practically hear your hearts beating with anticipation. You are about to take the next steps in your lives.

Most of you are headed for your first real, well-paying jobs and, for the first time in your lives, you are not going to be dependent on anyone.

It’s an exciting moment, and I realize at this point I am just about all that’s standing in your way! Behind you, I can see your family and loved ones. They are glowing with pride today. They are sitting there thinking, “It was all worth it.”

Well, let me tell you, every night they spent worrying about you, and every penny they saved for your education was worth it. You have exceeded their every expectation. Take it from a mother of two: there is no better feeling than watching someone you love realize their dreams.

Of course, they’re hoping you’ll still make time for them in your busy schedules, that you’ll care for them in their old age, that you’ll use your newfound economic freedom wisely––to help them pay off debts, or hospital bills, or maybe even put some money away for your sister’s wedding.

Seated around you, I see your professors and the wonderful staff of IIM-C. They do this every year, but for them, it never gets old. They have invested so much in each of you.

They are hoping you will go out and use your education to make a difference in society.

They are counting on you to bring honor to this institution, and to make our country and our world a better place.

From where I’m standing, I can feel it all––the excitement, the anticipation, the pride, the hope. There are few constants in our world, but this is one of them. This is what every convocation speaker sees. And I’m sure it’s what the speaker at my IIM-C convocation in 1976 saw, too.

It’s hard to believe that you are the 50th batch to graduate from IIM-C when I was just the 11th. And thinking back to my own graduation from IIM-C, I can say with confidence that life here has undoubtedly changed for the better.

We didn’t have the Audi back then––our convocation was outside in a tiny tent on the lawn. It was not nearly as festive or well attended as today’s ceremony.

In fact, in every way, your time here at IIM-C and the world you are about to enter into is more advanced, more diverse, and more global than mine was in 1976.

My batch was the first to graduate from the Joka campus. I spent my first year at the old B.T. Road campus, which was just an old building in the middle of Naxalite territory––not the safest area.

And when we moved to Joka, the land from here to Diamond Harbor was all empty farmlands. TKPK was actually the last town.

My batch was around 100 students, and I was one of only five women in my class and just 12 in the whole school. They couldn’t take more because there were only so many dorm rooms built for women. We talk about glass ceilings today, but back then, women were still limited by the number of walls.

And when it comes to resources, there is no comparison. If we got our hands on a two-year-old Harvard Business Review, we thought we'd died and gone to heaven. The most advanced technology available was a four-function calculator and the IBM 360 computer, which, if you’ve ever seen a picture, is just a giant hunk of a machine. Needless to say, it was a different time. And India was a different place, too. When I graduated from business school, India was a great country, but back then, it was lagging behind, closed off from the rest of the world, economically and socially. The only recruiting on campus was for jobs in India, and most of it was for the manufacturing sector. For me, the dots were hard to connect, to get from that point when I graduated, to where I am today. They were few and far between, and I feel blessed by the path they ultimately illuminated. For you, the dots are so numerous, they form a constellation…. a constellation of opportunity. In the last 40 years, the landscape has changed entirely. There are more than 100 women graduating today, and the number of women executives on the Fortune 500 is growing every year. India is the world’s fastest growing free market economy and a hub of technological innovation. IIM-C graduates are some of the business world’s most highly sought-after recruits. In fact, every one of you has received a placement – in record time, I’m told! –– and it’s safe to say you are all headed for wildly successful careers. So I’m not here to tell you how to have a successful career. I’m here to tell you that a successful career is not enough. With the many blessings you have received, with the world-class education you have just completed, with all the incredible resources available to you right here in India, you must make something more. You must make a lasting impact. You can change the way the world looks at business and the way business looks at the world. You can turn the inconceivable into the inevitable. You can leave the world a brighter, better place.
I say this, not just because it’s a convocation speech and my job is to inspire you with grand pronouncements about your potential. But because, as much progress as India and the world have made over the last four decades, we still have a long way to go. We still face complex challenges like inequality, climate change, and resource scarcity, that demand solutions and leadership. Making these challenges even more complex is the fact that they are all interconnected. You cannot dive into one issue without touching another. At the same time, no issue can be contained within a particular country. Most issues you will deal with are global. You will have to learn how to take off your blinders, think expansively, and realize that you are part of a global ecosystem. It is critical that you take this responsibility seriously, because you are the problem-solvers and leaders we need to overcome our world’s most serious challenges. On the other hand, a number of us here today are entering the sunset of our careers. We are counting on you to make our golden years peaceful and worry-free. Bill Clinton put it so well––“I have more yesterdays than tomorrows. You have got more tomorrows than yesterdays. And you better show up.” I’m confident that you will show up. And, if you’ll allow me, I have a few suggestions to help you on your way. Some of you may be familiar with the old career maxim: “learn, earn, return.” It’s the idea that successful people spend the first third of their lives developing the skills of their chosen trade, the second third maximizing their earning potential, and the final third of their lives giving back through charity and mentorship of the next generation. Today, that model is outdated. To make an impact in a complex and fast-changing world, you must learn, earn, and return––simultaneously––at every stage of your career. Allow me to elaborate. I’ll begin with learning. For most of you, today marks the end of your formal education––but it is only the beginning of your life’s learning. If you thought you were done being a student, think again. You are a student for life. Because… while you have been taught how to balance a budget, you have yet to balance delivering short-term results with long-term performance at a company. While you have been taught how to manage operations, you have yet to manage the ambiguity of
today’s business world. While you have been taught how to market products to consumers, you have yet to market yourself within a global and ever-changing marketplace. You won’t find these lessons in a textbook, but they are just as important as every discipline you’ve studied here at IIM-C. When you leave here today, your professors will be replaced by managers, but they will have just as much to teach you. You will be in charge of your own learning, and it’s a responsibility you must not take lightly. This is my first, and perhaps my most important piece of advice. You know a great deal, but there is far more you don’t know. So stay humble. Be curious. Read voraciously. Volunteer for hard assignments and be ready and willing to learn as you go. The higher you ascend, the more weight your decisions carry, and the more you have to learn. I got to be a CEO, and more importantly, I’ve stayed a CEO, because I am a lifelong student. The truth is, we live in a world of dizzying change. The best formal education cannot provide you with a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. You must continue learning as you go – and that will determine where you go. There is a line by Spanish poet Antonio Machado that says it best: “Wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.” To make a lasting impact, you must make your own road. To do that, you must never, ever stop learning. Now the next piece is the one I imagine you are all most looking forward to –  earning. You are entering a world where money looms large. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, you are going to make more than a comfortable amount of it. But you must never let your net worth define your self-worth. If you follow money in your career, you are likely to find it. But if you follow your passion, regardless of the money, you will find something more. You will find fulfillment and inspiration that will propel you further than the promise of a big payday ever could. And you will likely find money, too. So I urge you to first find your purpose. What do you want to create in the world that isn’t already there? What product, technology, or service would make life better for people, and how can you make it a reality?
If you can solve a problem or improve a life, even in the smallest way, your career will be worth more than any currency. And just as important as what you choose to do, is  how you choose to do it. Businesses today are largely evaluated on their short-term performance, whether quarter to quarter, or year over year. But the most successful companies aren’t those that shine brightly for a few quarters and then quickly burn out. The most successful companies are the ones that create value over the long term—for employees, for shareholders, and for the greater community. Performing in the short term is important––you won’t make it to your long-term goals if you don’t deliver results day-to-day. But a company that fails to invest in future innovations, that cuts corners on environmental sustainability, or short-changes community stakeholders for the sake of a few extra stock points, isn’t going to make it for long. My proudest accomplishment at PepsiCo is a company-wide vision I instituted when I became CEO, called Performance with Purpose. Performance with Purpose is our commitment to delivering strong financial results through sustainable business practices. We’re working every day to build a more balanced portfolio, to conserve natural resources, and to create diverse, inclusive workplaces, because we understand that long-term growth is contingent upon a healthy relationship between a company, its community, and its consumers. Performance with Purpose is the legacy I hope to leave behind, and I urge you to start considering yours. Few people in this world are remembered for earning lots of money. So I challenge you to think bigger. Earn respect. Earn trust. Earn a reputation for fair and thoughtful leadership. Earn a legacy you can be proud of. Because, to quote Henry Ford, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” To make a lasting impact, think big, and build your life around long-term values, not just short- term value. And that leads me to the final piece,  returning.
Today, you have accomplished something wonderful. But it’s important to remember that this is not your accomplishment alone. First, it also belongs to your parents and loved ones…who have supported you, guided you, and sacrificed for you. Your presence here today is proof enough that they have done their job right. So express your gratitude to them, and do it often. Call and visit them regularly. Don’t tell them you are too busy. You are not too busy. I run a Fortune 50 company and I still call my mother 2 or 3 times every day. So, all of you can make the time. Your parents and loved ones are your biggest advocates and best advisors. Don’t ever take them for granted. The most important lessons don't always come from the person standing in front of you; it's the people sitting behind you. So turn around for a moment please, and let’s give them a round of applause. Second, your accomplishment also belongs to your community…. which has grounded you in faith and helped you establish your True North. Communities are central to who we are. They shape our outlook on life, and instill values in us that last a lifetime. They also teach us the importance of hard work and of leading a life anchored in faith and service. No matter what you believe in, you can honor your upbringing by giving back to the towns and regions where your journeys began. And you don’t need a hefty salary to give back. You can be a mentor to students in your hometown, or volunteer on a local development project. There’s so much you can do! Whatever you do, make it meaningful and make a difference. Third, this honor also belongs to this institution…. which opened its doors to you solely on the basis of your merit. No matter your background, you had a fair and equal shot at success because of the IIMs. Your education at IIM-C has opened and will open countless doors for you; now,  you must endeavor to hold them open for the next batch of students.

Finally, at this pivotal moment in the history of your country, you must give back to India.

You are graduating with the skills and insights India needs to unleash its massive economic potential. You have the knowledge and the vision to identify new and unconventional solutions to old policy problems that stifle development. You can be the force that moves India to capitalize on centuries of potential and take its rightful place as a leader among nations.

To make a lasting impact, you must give as much as you have received.

Graduates, looking out at you today, I am filled with hope about the future of business and the future of our world.

You have just begun the exciting, exhilarating, and at times, exhausting journey of your lives.

But you could not be better prepared for what lies ahead. So I would like to end today by sharing my wish for you as you embark on your next step.

One thing you may not know about me is that back in my college days, I had my own rock band––

the LogRhythms.

I know. Looking at me now, you would never know. Like I said, the dots don’t necessarily connect.

But in honor of my rock roots, I want to leave you with the words from one of my favorite songs. Because I am of the mind that Bob Dylan always says it best:

May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation When the winds of changes shift May your heart always be joyful May your song always be sung May you stay … forever young

Class of 2015, with these words in mind, go out there and get to it! I can’t  wait to see what you do.

Thank you.

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