Leadership in Action: Dr. Mehmood Khan, M.D.

Dr. Mehmood Khan, M.D., PepsiCo’s Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Global Research and Development, recently assumed a historic leadership position as the new Chair of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC), an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As the first Pakistani American Chair, he leads the advancement of U.S. business engagement in Pakistan through a national forum on economic, political, and other issues. This is a pivotal role that works to strengthen the relationship between the two nations on multiple levels. At PepsiCo, Dr. Khan oversees the Global Performance with Purpose sustainability initiatives and leads PepsiCo’s Research and Development (R&D) efforts.  These are a few of the many achievements which make Dr. Khan a leader in U.S. commerce and a Senior Executive in a Fortune 100 company.

Named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company magazine in 2015, Dr. Khan has injected fresh new thinking into corporate leadership that includes a positive impact on communities around the world.  As Vice Chairman, Dr. Khan oversees PepsiCo’s global sustainability agenda, working to increase its efforts to improve the products it sells, protect the planet, and empower people around the world in order to contribute solutions to shared challenges. He also leads PepsiCo’s research and development (R&D) efforts, creating breakthrough innovations in food, beverages and nutrition—as well as delivery, packaging and production technology—to capture competitive advantage and drive PepsiCo’s businesses forward.    An example of the tangible results is PepsiCo’s reduction of its absolute water use by approximately one billion liters.  He has also pushed to expand sustainable farming practices that help local growers increase yields and incomes.  And through the PepsiCo Foundation, the company has partnered with NGOs to provide access to safe water to more than six million people.  Dr. Khan’s ambitious sustainable vision at PepsiCo – which translates into some of the food industry’s most innovative work across water, agriculture, environmental sustainability, and corporate citizenship – is making PepsiCo a model for how a global company should operate in the 21st century.

At APF’s annual convening of diaspora leaders titled, Business Opportunities in the U.S. Pakistan Relationship, Dr. Khan shared his vision on U.S.-Pakistan business relations, career, and leadership.  “Pakistan’s robust 40 million strong middle class is expected to double in size in correlation with a forecasted doubling of its 200 million population in coming years.  PepsiCo is committed to investing in Pakistan, a significant consumer market for PepsiCo, through job creation, research and development, and fostering a business friendly environment.”  He highlighted the opportunities in which Pakistan is working towards the global knowledge economy in the areas of food, water, energy, and infrastructure. 

During the special fireside chat with Aakif Ahmad, Co-Founder of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, Dr. Khan described his ethos of “intellectual nomadism.” Although he started out in medicine, his passion for lifelong learning and his intellectual curiosity led him to become the President of the Takeda Global Research & Development Center, overseeing Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company’s worldwide R&D efforts.  After several years as a pharmaceutical executive, Dr. Khan made another major career transition—this time taking him to the apex of corporate giant PepsiCo.  He encouraged curiosity among others, especially younger professionals. He said, “The minute we open ourselves to become nomadic in our thinking, we start to explore places we’ve never dreamed of.”  On leadership, Dr. Khan stated, “We don’t always choose our manager or boss. However, you choose which leader you will follow. Leadership is not an appointment. It is a choice or decision by the followers, not the leader. The moment you find yourself as a leader is when people decide to follow you. The minute leaders forget that, they stop being a leader.”

APF is honored to highlight Dr. Khan as a leader in global commerce whose corporate stewardship model is innovating how companies partner with communities.  As part of its mission to advance Pakistan’s development through institutional partnerships, APF supports the efforts of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council to develop smart partnerships with triple bottom line results.

 While this year marks the end of Dr. Khan’s term as a member of APF’s Board of Directors, his vision and dedication in guiding APF’s mission since its inception leaves a lasting impact and legacy through APF’s focus on institutional partnerships.  Dr. Khan’s continued leadership in global commerce is a highlight of the contributions of Pakistani-Americans to the fabric of American life.  His achievements are a powerful example of the driving force of the diaspora in building lasting economic ties between the people, institutions, and ultimately, the resilience of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.