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Inside the Economist's Mind

Getting a jet as a life goal

I recollect Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo in 2002 when she had just become CFO of PepsiCo worldwide and made her visit to India in the company jet. I recollect taking her to meet the Finance Minister of India followed by a FICCI chambers of commerce high tea, where industrialists from across Delhi and other parts of North India had come to hear her speak. She was already a mini celebrity in India then. Indra started her speech by narrating a visit to Chennai to meet her mother where she reminded her that she was now entitled to a company jet to use for her travel from the US to any place on earth and that’s how she had arrived to Chennai. Her mother it seems switched the subject, asking her daughter if she would  please go down to the next door Grocer and get some hara dhania (coriander leaves) urgently needed for the meal she was cooking,  since her cook was busy in the kitchen. Indra told this story to aging old school industrialists of Delhi some of whom would believe it below their dignity to perform an errand like this. And Indra said that she immediately felt the crown of jewels she had put on herself being quietly lifted off –she was the same small girl of her mother who was being cooked a special meal and running across the street to get something needed in the kitchen. The moral of the story? Don’t let success go to your head. Be grounded. No problem having a jet as a life goal but……

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