Leena Nair, first Indian-origin CEO of French firm Chanel

India born, British national to head French luxury brand


December 15, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Leena Nair, first Indian-origin CEO of French firm Chanel

Leena Nair chosen by Chanel, a French luxury brand, as its Global CEO (Photo: Instagram)

Leena Nair, Chief Human Resource Officer of the Anglo-Dutch FMCG company Unilever, has been named Global Chief Executive of luxury goods maker Chanel. Nair will take charge from January 2022.

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On December 14, 52-year-old Leena Nair, was chosen by Chanel, a French luxury brand, as its Global CEO. The company said that Nair was chosen to ensure “long term success” of the company.

Chanel said it recognised Nair as a “visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes.”

What makes Nair fit for the job?

Nair was born in the year 1962 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. She did her early schooling at Holy Cross School, a convent school in the city. She pursued her undergraduate (UG) in the field of Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering from Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli. The college is affiliated to the Mumbai University and has furnished Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers for the country.

After completing her course, Nair applied for Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources in XLRI, Jamshedpur one of the oldest management institutes in India and got accepted. She graduated from XLRI in 1992 with a gold medal.

She was a management trainee from January 1992 to December 1992 in Unilever’s India division and one of the few women who chose to be factory personnel. She was given the position of manager in Lipton, a subsidiary of Unilever. In the year 2000, she was appointed HR manager of the company and moved to London.

During her 30 years at Unilever, Nair has performed a variety of roles. In March 2016, she was promoted to Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of Unilever Leadership Executive becoming the first woman to do so.

‘‘Leena has been a pioneer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more so than in her role as CHRO, where she has been a driving force on our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, on the transformation of our leadership development, and on our preparedness for the future of work. She has played a critical role in building our purpose-led, future-fit organisation, which is now the employer of choice in over 50 countries globally,’’ says Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever.

‘‘My purpose is to Ignite the Human Spark to build a Better Business and a Better World #morehuman,’’ reads Nair’s profile on business networking site, LinkedIn. Nair also considers Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo to be her friend and mentor. Incidentally, she became the second woman to take the reins of a global company as CEO after Nooyi.



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