Indra Nooyi’s “focus” on China

In the Hutong
Fall hath Fallen
1634 hrs.

Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi did a grand tour of China not too long ago, forgoing the normal jet-in-jet-out itineraries that frame most global CEO China visits. Given the time constraints that face any CEO, regardless of the size of the business, carving 12 days out of the executive schedule to do a deep dive anyplace is no mean feat. It must have been that much harder for Nooyi, who runs a Fortune 500 fast-moving consumer goods company with a global market.

Even better, Nooyi prepped extensively for the trip before she even got on the plane, and once here she pulled herself out of the standard boardroom-and-powerpoint grind that is the meat of most CEO visits, and actually got out on the streets and into the hinterlands.

Granting that there is a limit to what you can learn in two weeks, and that there are dangers implicit in thinking you know China better than you do. I remain skeptical of any CEO who calls China a “core” market but will not pick up and move here for a year or more.

Nooyi, however, deserves a lot of credit for making an effort that sets a new standard for CEO visit to China should be. By her actions she has issued a challenge to other senior corporate leaders to match or beat her approach. What will be interesting is to see what initiatives come out of Pepsi in China as a result.

Nooyi needed to come to China, because the core fizzy-sugar-water business is probably not going to grow here to anything like it is in parts of the world where people have been slurping carbonated beverages for generations. Pepsi in China is going to have to go its own way if it is going to grow, much less fight off growing local competitors like Wahaha or the marketing and distribution monster that is Coke.

And getting the boss here to see exactly why that is the case was a superb ste