By Ankur Bora, IP4

In 2006, Indra Nooyi, born and raised in Madras, India, became PepsiCo’s first female CEO. While growing up, her mom pushed her through an unusual daily ritual. “Every night at the dinner table, my mother would ask me and my elder sister to write a speech about what we would do if we were president, chief minister, or prime minister — a different world leader she’d ask us to play,” she writes in her memoir My life in Full, Work, Family, And Our Future. “At the end of dinner, we had to give the speech, and she had to decide who she was going to vote for.” Little did Indra realize how these speeches were preparing her to become a corporate leader.

After noticing how PepsiCo’s products were contributing to worldwide health issues, Indra envisioned a new era for the 21st century corporation. Shaking off its old image of sugar-based soft drinks, PepsiCo would make and market more healthy products, becoming a company that accounted for the environmental impact of its growth, and a corporation that would be a terrific place to work for a quarter of a million people. But she faced major hurdles along the way especially by the investors and shareholders who did not agree with her or share her vision.

Her final hurdle was a speech she delivered in Scottsdale, Arizona, in front of four hundred top managers from around the world. Unveiling her vision for PepsiCo, Indra talked for more than one hour explaining how her plan was a new way to lead a corporation. She threw her head and heart into the speech. As she spoke, it was so silent one could hear a pin drop. When she finished, the group gave a standing ovation. The audience was electrified. Indra Nooyi was ready to take PepsiCo on the road.

This story is the life of a woman who embraced the quintessential American values of leadership, commitment to hard work, responsibility, and service to others. She wouldn’t have achieved her dream if her parents in India hadn’t raised her with the belief that she could become whoever she wanted.

Dear fellow Toastmasters, when Indra Nooyi delivered her memorable speech in Scottsdale, Arizona, she pushed through, assured of her skills and abilities. The seeds planted by her mom decades earlier when little Indra was required to write and deliver her first speeches at the dinner table would blossom into a woman with drive and know-how to do and accomplish great feats!

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