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Pepsi President Gives MBA Grads The Finger

Scott Johnson at Powerline quotes a report from Columbia MBA graduate, Wes Martin about the Business School commencement address of PepsiCo president/CFO Indra K. Nooyi. Here's how Martin summarizes the main portion of her commencement address:

Ms. Nooyi began to compare the world and its five major continents (excl. Antarctica and Australia) to the human hand. First was Africa - the pinky finger - small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia - the thumb - strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage. Third was Europe - the index finger - pointing the way. Fourth was South America - the ring finger - the finger which symbolizes love and sensualness. Finally, the US (not Canada mind you) - yes, you guessed it - the middle finger. She then launched into a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world. The rest of the world sees us as an overbearing, insensitive and disrespectful nation that gives the middle finger to the rest of the world. According to Ms. Nooyi, we cause the other finger nations to cower under our presence. But it is our responsibility, she continues, to change the current state of world opinion of the US. It is our responsibility to make the other fingers rise in unison with us as we move forward. She then goes on to give a personal anecdote about some disrespectful US business women in an Asian country and how that is typical of Americans overseas. No talk of what the US has done for the world throughout its history. No discussion about the ills that have been cured and the rights that have been wronged by the US. Just how wrong we are for the way we are perceived and how right they are in their own perceptions of the United States.

With PepsiCo in damage control mode, we've now got "a clarification" from Nooyi at the PepsiCo website:

The point of my analogy was to emphasize America's leadership position. Equally critical is the need for each of us as citizens to take a constructive role in whatever we choose to do in life to ensure the U.S. continues as the world's "helping hand."

And a link to the speech prepared for delivery [PDF]. A full reading of the speech confirms that Martin's account, as opposed to the (*shock*) patently dishonest spin the Pepsi PR hack initially tried to put on it. Finally Johnson shares reader reaction to the story here.

Update: Nooyi could take a few pointers from Vice President Dick Cheney who delivered this commencement speech at Auburn University last Friday.


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Comments (35)

Inartful, yes. A sophomoric... (Below threshold)

Inartful, yes. A sophomoric analogy, yes. "Unpatriotic?" To those with thin skin, perhaps. I don't have a problem with her point being made -- but she needs a new speechwriter.

Yes, this person needs a ne... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

Yes, this person needs a new speech writer, and PepsiCo needs a new CEO. If this is the depth of her intellectual capabilites, I assume she would be unable to pour Pepsi out of a boot. By the way, where were all these nut cases during the days of Clinton? It has become leftwing chic to bash the US when a Republican is in charge.

With her speech, Nooyi unwi... (Below threshold)

With her speech, Nooyi unwitting provided an excellent example of a completely different body part: an ass.

oops, that should be "unwit... (Below threshold)

oops, that should be "unwittingly"

Interesting that anyone her... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Interesting that anyone here would expect anything less from the CEO of such a major gloabl corporation. Pepsi and Coca-Cola, along with high profile brands such as Levis, Disney et al., have a vested interest in how America is perceived overseas because they're products are so closely identified with American culture. Accordingly, I'll bet as CEO of Pepsi, Nooyi has far more insight and understanding of the fluctuations of international support for American policy than many American politicians. Indeed, an American politician can thumb his or her nose at the world while counting on some nationalistic support here at home while companies like Pepsi see their sales drop in foreign countries. Just remember: "It isn't personal, Sonny, it's strictly business."

Frameone, you appear to be ... (Below threshold)
LJD:

Frameone, you appear to be in agreement with the culture that is the foundation of this philosphy.

i.e.

1.) Import more "diversity" (although we are arguable one of the most "diverse" countries in the world.

2.) Bite the hand that feeds you.

3.) Continue sending U.S. assets overseas, all the while, doing #2.

I am guessing Indra Nooye is part of the thumb, which she probably ought to remove from her ass.

BTW, this country was founded on giving the finger. When did we start concerning ourselves with making other countries happy, ones with far less diverse cultures, more injustice, more corruption?....

This is almost laughable.

What LJD said ^^.N... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

What LJD said ^^.

No need for me to add a thing, well said.

In other words, frameone, w... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

In other words, frameone, we should give in to peer pressure, whatever will make us popular with the other nations of the world. Considering the way many nations of this world are governed and the way many of this world's diverse peoples act towards foreigners, I don't think anyone out there has any business giving the US or Americans in general a lesson on manners.*

On a side note, my parents taught me not to do things just to be popular. They thought it a valuable lesson that I learn to do what was right rather than what the "cool" kids did.

*Yes, I realize Ms. Nooyi is an American, having immigrated here. She should doubly know better.

Accordingly, I'll bet as... (Below threshold)
penny:

Accordingly, I'll bet as CEO of Pepsi, Nooyi has far more insight and understanding of the fluctuations of international support for American policy than many American politicians.

Please. She's the CFO(financial officer) of a company selling sugar water, for God's sake. She could be good at finance, but an idiot in other realms. Her hand metaphor was certainly moronic and innappropriate at a commencement ceremony.

an American politician can thumb his or her nose at the world

What's the definition of thumbing your nose? Not going along with Chirac, Putin, Schroeder on issues related to OUR national interest?

I agree with LJD. What mak... (Below threshold)

I agree with LJD. What makes America, America, is that we have a tradition of doing what we feel is right, even if others disagree. It's also why. when the chips are down and someone is in trouble, they look to Uncle Sam for help. If it isn't in our interests, we may not act, but we won't base our choices on the interests of Europe or other parties.

Again you guys are taking t... (Below threshold)
frameone:

Again you guys are taking this very, very personally when I'd wager it's strictly business. I'm not even sure where "popularity" enters into it. I believe the "P" word you're looking for is "profits."

Let's take another industry I know a little more about, Hollywood. Does anyone here want to venture a guess as to why Hollywood is making few if any war films about the war on terror and Iraq? If you say it's because Hollywood hates America you're overlooking the more obvious and rational explanation. War films are very expensive to make and these days Hollywood makes most of its money from overseas box-office and DVD sales. Hollywood just doesn't know how to sell to the rest of the world an American centered war film in the current climate. They're afraid they'll never make their money back. You can look at the box office stats of Black Hawk Down as an example. It cost $80 million to make and made around $173.4 million world wide. $65 million of that came from foreign sales. Without that chunk of foreign change the $28 million from the domestic BO wouldn't have covered the film's initial publicity budget or its DVD marketing push. It's only when you combine the foreign and DVD sales (over 2 million) of the film does BHD become a real winner for the studio.

I guarantee you Pepsi looks at the same kind of numbers and wonders how it can make a profit if the global climate slants toward the anti-American. A qucik Lexus search found a Nov. 2003 article in Intelligent Enterprise by Lisa Sokol arguing for why companies need to have a heads up policy toward "social unrest that may predict a decrease in the popularity of a firm's products."

To quote:

"A recent example of this is the launching of a new Turkish soda. Drinking it, a series of television ads claimed, would make you more Turkish. Here we have a small foreign bottler exploiting Turkey's ambivalent feelings toward the United States and its associated Pepsi and Coke products (never mind that the actual cola products are not made in the United States and employ largely Turkish citizens).

An important role of Information sharing and analysis centers (ISAC) is to look for the precursor signals associated with different types of social, economic, and political events or crises. If the signals are collected and properly interpreted or measured, the information can be used to avert or diminish the impact of a crisis."

I'd say Nooyi's comments could probably be put down to purely business-based decisions, perhaps an attempt to prempt social and political trends abroad. Weclome to the global 21st century guys.

I have two middle fingers e... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

I have two middle fingers extended to both Ms. Nooyi and frameone. Those who so obviously hate America while enjoying all it's benefits at the same time deserve nothing less, or more, for that matter.

frameone - following your l... (Below threshold)
penny:

frameone - following your logic Nooyi's comments were deliberate pandering to international anti-American sentiments to enhance profits at Pepsi.

I don't think Pepsi is that crass or stupid as most of its shareholders are Americans. I think they have a loose cannon as a CFO.

frameone, would you care to... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

frameone, would you care to explain how it is "strictly business" for Nooyi to thumb her nose at a group of elite business school grads, some of which Pepsico just might want to hire? Hey Columbia MBAs, I hear there's good job openings in Atlanta.

And my reaction on reading the trascript of the speech: Jeez, how the hell did this person get to be an officer of a Fortune 100 company? Was this an AA pick by Pepsico's board? Good thing Pizza Hut and Taco Bell got out from under them while the getting was good. Maybe I should go apply for her position. I can deliver a condenscending, talk-down-to-the-audience speech as well as anybody. After all, I used to live in Tennessee, and I've had lots of practice listening to Al Gore.

"Those who so obviously hat... (Below threshold)
frameone:

"Those who so obviously hate America while enjoying all it's benefits at the same time deserve nothing less, or more, for that matter."

"frameone - following your logic Nooyi's comments were deliberate pandering to international anti-American sentiments to enhance profits at Pepsi."

No guys. I have no idea what Nooyi's real motivations were but while were all speculating ...

Nooyi is a business person who sees a direct correlation between American policies and her ability to sell her products. Perhaps she's simply trying to remind everyone that the business of America is business and that waging wars around the world can get in the way of that. There isnothing anti-American about such a statement. Indeed, again, if the business of America is business, overbearing foreign policy decisions can impact her bottom line. Perhaps she's just suggesting that this administration and others need to be more sensitive to that. Does it help America, afterall, is American companies are hurt by because of American foreign policy? How is this such a reminder in anayway "thumbing the nose" at business students? Don't you think it's good for them to be aware that foreign policy can impact the bottom line?

Face it guys, as far as major international corporations are concerned the nation state is dead, but it can still have a tremendous impact on profits. I have my own issues and concerns about this new reality but accussing companies of "hating America" is to miss the larger point, not to say ludicrous on its face.

Ms. Nooyi's speech clearly ... (Below threshold)
F15C:

Ms. Nooyi's speech clearly is high school level at best. So I'm not
suprised that she completely misused the hand metaphor. I suppose it's correct usage is simply a bit too nuanced for her. Her's is a common misinterpretation by those on the left.

Here is the correct usage of the hand metaphor: At any sign of trouble in the
world, while the United States (the middle finger) stands tall and
proud, most other countries (the other fingers) rush to bend over and
plant their heads firmly up their asses.

F15C: Best hand metaphor ev... (Below threshold)
Inquiring:

F15C: Best hand metaphor ever.

frameone: Ms.Nooyi's comment makes absolutely no business sense whatsoever. Her comments actually provide those elements within a country, who already do not like the US or its products, even more material to work with, resulting in the strong possibility of losing more sales in said cultures. So, not only has she potentially upset US shareholders, but also provided (some) justification to anti-American consumption groups.

You're absolutely right that business is business, and a rule of business is not to lose potential profits/clients/what-have-you through bonehead actions or comments.

Frameone: "Perhaps she's si... (Below threshold)
F15C:

Frameone: "Perhaps she's simply trying to remind everyone that the business of America is business and that waging wars around the world can get in the way of that. ... Perhaps she's just suggesting that this administration and others need to be more sensitive to that."

You are asking us to believe that Nooyi is accusing Bush of being insensitive to business? If she is, she is far more stupid than her detractors make her out to be. It is far more likely that she is taking an all-to-typical cheap and tawdry shot at the US within the *supposed* context of global business, and just did a poor job of it.

Go over to the DU and they will tell you that everything Bush does is about big American businesses - like Pepsico. Having said that, I give you more credit than her because your statement regarding foreign policy impact is superficially accurate - at least as a snapshot in time.

Any given policy decision certainly can have effects on business, it doesn't take an MBA to figure that out. But, when the president looks at the bigger picture, he realizes there is more at stake in the long run than Pepsico, Haliburton, or any other business, and policy must reflect that fact with the safety of Americans at home and abroad having priority over business considerations.

Having read her 'speech', I find it poorly conceived, and laughably inept, but I do think she was going after Bush and the US outside of a business context. It just wasn't a very good attempt at doing so.


When your company is in an ... (Below threshold)

When your company is in an eternal battle to the death with a competitor, as Pepsi is with Coke, it makes no sense by any definition imaginable to rational human beings to offend the home market as Nooyi did.

Fortunately for frameone, by inserting the qualifier "rational" above, I left room for him to think it makes perfect business sense.

I'd like to know what company, if any, frameone works for, because if its leaders are taking his advice, I want to dump its stock before I lose my shirt.

Pepsico CEO email. He'd lov... (Below threshold)
Carl Smith:

Pepsico CEO email. He'd love to hear your you!

[email protected]

No wonder Coke is dominant.... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

No wonder Coke is dominant.

Then again, it might be the two kilos of sugar they put in every bottle of the Mexican version of their drink.

I have a PepsiCo Photoshop ... (Below threshold)

I have a PepsiCo Photoshop contest going...

http://www.slantpoint.com/mt-arx/2005/05/you_got_the_mid_1.php

Yopu're right Sue, coke in ... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

Yopu're right Sue, coke in Mexico has real sugar in it. I prefer it to that sweetener crap they use at every bottler in the U.S. but one, the bottler in Waco, Texas uses sugar, or at least they still were a few years ago. BTW, I haven't used pepsi products since Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire doing a commercial for pepsi, if he's their idea of a spokesman I can do without their products.

From her actual speech: </p... (Below threshold)
frameone:

From her actual speech:

"Today, as each of you ends one chapter in your young lives and begins another, I want you to consider how you will conduct your business careers so that the other continents see you extending a hand … not the finger. Graduates … it’s not that hard. You can change and shape the attitudes and opinions of the other fingers – the other continents and their peoples – by simply ascribing positive intent to all your international business transactions."

Yes, indeed, Nooyi is a vile, traiter.

She's also a vile traitor. ... (Below threshold)
frameone:

She's also a vile traitor.

Yes, accept oil vouchers fr... (Below threshold)
LJD:

Yes, accept oil vouchers from dictators violating UN sanctions... ...extend that hand.

Don't buy Product, buy 1 sh... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Don't buy Product, buy 1 share of stock. That will give us all the right to personally attend the shareholders meetings. Now where do I get a hold of one of those pie throwing students?

Aside from the insulting co... (Below threshold)
lyndi:

Aside from the insulting content, itw as a stupid speech. The writer doesn't seem to understand how the hand functions. There are lots of things I can do without my middle finger - heck, Jerry Garcia played guitar without one - so what if it's the longest one? This speech was a stupid one to give at Columbia University to MBA grads - insulting and not insightful at all.

In this day and age, it is foolish for anyone to think they can go make a political speech in an inappropriate venue and not get called on it.

I'm a Coke fan - maybe it's time for me to rething Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay products as well.

I am British, and I agree w... (Below threshold)
Alex Jameson:

I am British, and I agree with Indra. You Americans are self-infatuated twats.

Amen to that. The only ones... (Below threshold)
John Stevens:

Amen to that. The only ones with anything up their asses are the brainless morons filling the majority of this page. America personifies pseudo-organisation, quasi-democracy and utter stupidity. On the whole. The problem is you lot take TV (and yourselves) too seriously - but then that's all you know, eh?

Re-think what you like. But... (Below threshold)
t.parsons:

Re-think what you like. But please, go to school, get and education and grow up. You lot must be children.

Whether you are looking for... (Below threshold)

Whether you are looking for swinging couples or sexy singles as new swing partners, or just seeking someone to hang out with, you'll be able to find exactly who you are looking for, locally or around the world. Our users are looking for lasting friendships with those they can share their most "intimate secrets and fantasies".

Funny, but some of you moro... (Below threshold)
Merlin:

Funny, but some of you moronic non-Americans seem to miss one of the most significant points. India is doing so much better in the world? Hmmm...talk to the Pakastanis, or the people in Bangladesh...well either you get my point or you are ignoring it because you think it fashionable to be anti-US.

It's great to bash the US but when the chips are down, you all come sniveling to the US for help...whine...feed us..snivel... protect us...wahhh..we need money....

Pepsico has a penchant for ... (Below threshold)
JA Bohl:

Pepsico has a penchant for selecting corporate and product mouthpieces:

O.J.Simpson;
Michael Jackson; and now
Indira Nooyi

No Pepsi will be permitted in this household while this bootlicker is in charge.

fuck her... (Below threshold)
rob:

fuck her




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