Ex-PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi advises Indian students in US to be ‘watchful’ amid a string of tragedies


Amid a string of tragic and concerning incidents involving Indian students in the US, former CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi has advised them to be “watchful”, respect local laws and urged them to not engage in drugs or excessive drinking to ensure their safety and security in this country. Nooyi, considered among the most powerful and influential business executives globally, issued an over 10-minute long video advising Indian students coming to the US to stay safe and alert and to avoid activities that can land them in trouble. The video was posted on X by the Consulate General of India in New York on Thursday.

“The reason I’m recording this video is to talk to all of you, all you young people who are looking to come to the United States or are here already pursuing your studies, because I’ve been reading and listening to all the news about several examples of Indian students finding themselves in unfortunate situations,” Nooyi, 68, said in the video. “It’s up to you to make sure you do what it takes to remain safe..stay within the law, do not venture out into dark places alone at night, do not engage in drugs or excessive drinking please. All of these are just formulae for disaster,” she said.

Nooyi pleaded with the students coming to the US to “choose your university and course carefully”. She added that coming to the US to pursue higher education can be a “cultural sea change” for many because they are away from the comforts of their families, communities and ecosystems. “So when you come to the United States, be very watchful in the initial months of your landing here, in terms of who you select as friends, the new habits you develop and how you cope with cultural changes because it’s very easy to get caught up with all the freedoms you have and think that you should experiment with everything. Be very, very careful.”


She noted that while Indian students are known for their hard work and success, there are also incidents of some youngsters experimenting with and eventually getting addicted to drugs such as Fentanyl. “This is lethal. Let me repeat, this is lethal,” she said, adding that these are extremely harmful drugs impacting mental and physical health and will “definitely be detrimental to your career prospects here.” “Please do not verge into this whole area of experimenting with dangerous stuff. Most importantly, do not partake in unlawful activities, understand the law and stay within the law,” she said.

Nooyi added that many international students are not familiar with the laws and regulations of the host country. “It is important to know the consequences of your actions and hence you have to stay alert all the time,” she said. “You need to know your visa status and its permissibility towards part-time employment. Do not violate the law,” she said, adding that the students must know the “boundaries of what you can do as a foreign student in the United States.” Nooyi also urged students to be aware of the “safe areas” in the city in which they are residing or travelling.

“Please avoid shady neighbourhoods. Do not venture out late into the night alone or do not venture out very late in the night at all,” she said, advising the students to go out in groups and with friends. Nooyi’s message comes amid a string of troubling cases pertaining to the safety and security of Indian students in the US. Since the beginning of this year, several cases of deaths among Indian and Indian-origin students have caused alarm and concern among the community.

This week, the Consulate said it is working with local law enforcement authorities to locate 25-year-old Indian student Mohammad Abdul Arfath, who has been missing since the beginning of this month, in Cleveland. Indian-American Sameer Kamath, 23, a student at Purdue University who was found dead in a nature preserve in Indiana in February, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to authorities.

In January, 18-year-old Akul Dhawan, a University of Illinois student, was found unresponsive outside a campus building. Investigations revealed that he died due to hypothermia, with authorities ruling that acute alcohol intoxication and prolonged exposure to extremely cold temperatures significantly contributed to his death. In another tragedy that month, 25-year-old Indian student Vivek Saini was hammered to death by a homeless drug addict in Georgia.

Nooyi underscored that the US offers phenomenal educational opportunities, and is multicultural and welcoming. She, however, added that studying in the US is “not at all cheap, it’s very expensive and would not necessarily secure a job for you here today.” “It is not guaranteed. Nor should it be your objective in this globalised world, where India itself is offering huge numbers of opportunities for educated people,” she said.

Nooyi urged the students to be “very aware” of the resources available to them in their universities and local communities, “strongly” suggesting that students engage with the university support system, the local Indian consulates and local Indian Americans to learn from their experiences and seek their support when needed. She also appealed to the students to beware of scams, including on social media, that may dupe them of their money and resources. She stressed the need for students to take care of their mental health and well being, stay connected with friends, families and support groups.