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The Test of Any Great Country -- or Company

08/12/2014 8:27 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi speaks to reporters during the PepsiCo media day and investor expo, Monday, March 22, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

There is a buzz, energy, and excitement in India that is truly one of a kind. It's a country that so effortlessly blends its roles as a hub of arts, culture and history with its position as one of the world's economic growth engines.

At its core, India has a large reservoir of untapped potential. India's middle class -- the backbone of any economy -- continues to rise. In 2005, just 5% of India was middle class. By 2025, it's expected to be more than 40% or over 550 million people.

Though India is old as a nation, it is young as a population. It's expected that 40% of the country will be less than 25 years old by 2030. By then, 172 million workers are projected to enter the job market -- 88 million of whom will have a tertiary education.

And India's entrepreneurs, especially of small businesses, are an emerging force. They contribute approximately 39% of India's manufacturing output and provide employment to nearly 30 million people. It has been projected that India's GDP will nearly triple by 2030.

At the same time, there is no denying that India faces its own challenges. For example, for all its progress, it is increasingly hard to ignore basic infrastructure that appears not to keep pace with the times. It also has to deal with poverty and rising income inequality.

The test of any great country -- or any great company, for that matter -- is whether it can manage for both the level of returns and the duration over which those returns will be realized. Is it able to overcome today's challenges and maximize tomorrow's opportunities?

As far as India is concerned, I believe the answer to that question will be a resounding yes. To illustrate why, let me share a little bit of the PepsiCo India story.

This past summer, I was in Delhi to mark PepsiCo's 25th anniversary in India. And what a journey it has been.

Over the past quarter century, we've built a diverse product portfolio that nourishes and delights hundreds of millions of Indians. We've taken PepsiCo products known around the world and made them uniquely Indian, while also creating home-grown brands, like Kurkure, that are beloved local favorites. Today, we have eight brands in India with retail sales of more than Rs. 1000 crores each. We've created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

At the same time, for all the business success we've enjoyed, it's the way we achieved success that makes me most proud. We've conducted business the right way, in an ethical way, in a way that is sustainable for the next 25 years and beyond. We've delivered what we call Performance with Purpose by aligning the needs of our business with the needs of society.

For example, PepsiCo has pioneered agricultural and manufacturing practices that conserve more water than we use in our local operations. The result has been historic: in 2009, PepsiCo India achieved positive water balance, and we've maintained that level of stewardship ever since.

And we're constantly innovating new ways to work with our nearly 25,000 farmers on the sustainable methods that will improve their livelihoods, strengthen our local supply chain, and pave the way towards a brighter future for India's economy, which depends so heavily on agriculture. We're taking new steps forward each and every day -- such as the work currently underway in partnership with the Clinton Foundation to cultivate smallholder cashew farms in Maharashtra.

All told, it has been an amazing 25 years for PepsiCo India. Our silver anniversary.

Silver is a particularly appropriate metaphor. It is famously durable, but it is also malleable. A silversmith can take a silver brick and transform it into something more useful, more relevant, more beautiful.

That's exactly what our business has done over the past quarter century, and it's exactly what India is doing as a nation. India is undergoing an epic transformation -- and PepsiCo has been part of that transformation each and every step of the way.

As I look to the future, I believe PepsiCo India's golden anniversary will be even more special than the silver. Because India is a country with a boundless, unfettered energy. It's a country that is strong, durable, and timeless. And it's a country bursting with potential.

All of us at PepsiCo look forward to being part of India's next 25 years.

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