Sunday, March 23, 2008

Listening to NPR - Indra Nooyi

I heard the interview of Indra Nooyi on NPR yesterday. It was a replay of a BBC interview recorded earlier. Engaging as it was, there were many fascinating things Nooyi said that do not quite ring true to my ears. She was insistent on how everybody across the world, India included, has always loved America & continues to do so. She alluded briefly to how people are able to separate people from policies & while American policies were not something she was going to discuss as the CEO of Pepsi, she had no doubt that this was indeed the case.

The incredible interest in the American Presidential elections internationally does not take away from the fact that the Muslim world, by & large, is alienated by America. The erstwhile soviet block I do not think was ever a great fan. The economies of Latin America have been known to suffer from disastrous policy recommendations from the World Bank & the IMF - very much under American scrutiny. So who is this everybody Nooyi is talking about?

I'd have to agree that it is the right thing to do to separate people from policies. My own travels to the US have taught me a lot against blatant generalizations around this. However, I do not think that such a distinction is made by people whose experience of America is not first hand. I frequently argue against such generalizations & the frequency of such talk points to the fact that a country is pretty much perceived by the news it makes - not by how its people may be like.

Nooyi's first 23 years in India have shaped her accent, & this has not changed. In many ways, she came across as very corporate, very confident, & wonderfully articulate. The story she related about her daughter having to take an appointment to meet her is amusing & sad at the same time.

She declined the challenge to tell Pepsi from Coke - citing reasons around how European Pepsi is different from American Pepsi. She further eulogized about how Pepsi was the chosen cola drink of great wine connoisseurs, & talked about tones of this & that in Pepsi. She did not say which of the many geographically-specific Pepsis she was talking about, though.

Her business acumen, I'm sure, is a byword. Her enthusiasm, energy & passion are incredible. She spoke very keenly on obesity & corporate & personal responsibilities for fighting obesity. I can only say that she did a less-than-perfect job of delinking America from Pepsi, & perhaps, even, tried a little too hard.


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