Thursday, May 26, 2022

Leena Nair Follows 'Mentor' Nooyi's Path, Becomes CEO Of Chanel

British-Indian Leena Nair became the global CEO of French luxury fashion brand Chanel after her 30-year career at Unilever. Here's a look at Nair and other Indians working as CEOs of global platforms.

Leena Nair Follows 'Mentor' Nooyi's Path, Becomes CEO Of Chanel
Leena Nair joins French luxury group Chanel as its Global Chief Executive. File photo

Leena Nair, who was the first female, Asian and youngest-ever Chief Human Resources Officer of Unilever, (CHRO) has now been appointed as the Global Chief Executive Officer of French luxury fashion house Chanel.  Nair's appointment to CEO has now drawn a close comparison with Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi. 

In a couple of tweets, Nair expressed her gratitude to the “iconic” and “admired” company.

On Twitter, she wrote, “I am humbled and honoured to be appointed the Global Chief Executive Officer of @CHANEL, an iconic and admired company.”

She further added, “I am so inspired by what @CHANEL stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human potential and in acting to have a positive impact in the world.”


Nair is slated to join the company in January 2022, confirmed Chanel in a recent statement. It further added that the appointments would ensure its "long-term success as a private company."

Who is Leena Nair?

Leena Nair was a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) that was solely responsible for delivering Unilever’s business and financial performance.

A mother of two, the 52-year-old Indian-British woman has been named one of the most powerful women of 2021 by Fortune India.

Born on June 11, 1969, in Maharashtra, Nair was a student of Holy Cross Convent School in Kolhapur. Later she studied electronics engineering at Walchand College of Engineering and later attended Xaviers School of Management in Jamshedpur and graduated as a gold medalist.

Nair joined Unilever’s Indian subsidiary in 1992 and worked for 30 years.

Taking to Twitter, she wrote, “I am grateful for my long career at @Unilever, a place that has been my home for 30 years. It has given me so many opportunities to learn, grow and contribute to a truly purpose-driven organisation," adding, "I will always be a proud advocate of @Unilever and its ambition to make sustainable living commonplace.”

Thanking Nair for her “outstanding contribution” to the growth of Unilever, CEO Alan Jope said that she has been “a pioneer throughout”. Jope added that as a CHRO she has been a driving force on the company’s “equity, diversity and inclusion agenda”.

With her appointment, Nair has become the latest to join the list of Indian CEOs on the global platform.

Who is Indra Nooyi?

Indra Nooyi, an Indian-American businesswoman who was appointed the CEO and Chairperson of US-based PepsiCo, became one of the first women of colour to rise to the stature of the leadership of a global company.  She served as the CEO  from 2006 to 2018. 

Nair-Nooyi friendship

Both the women leaders are reportedly quite close friends, with Nair considering Nooyi as her mentor. 

"I'm so proud to call her a mentor and friend," Nair had said during an interaction between the two leaders in October, reports Moneycontrol.

During the interaction, Nair recalled how Nooyi had mentored her. "I remember, I reached out to you and said, Indra, will you be my mentor? And you said yes. I was so shocked for a couple of days, saying she really said yes."

"She (Leena Nair) is what I call a kickass executive. She is fantastic," remarked Nooyi. 

Meanwhile, here’s a look at other Indians working as CEOs for international brands:

1. Parag Agarwal: An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Parag was appointed as the CEO of Twitter on November 29, 2021. He was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

2. Satya Nadella: Appointed as Microsoft’s Chairman on June 16, 2021, Nadella is an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology, Karnataka and hails from Hyderabad.

3. Sundar Pichai: Born in Chennai, Sundar Pichai was appointed as the CEO of Google on August 15, 2015. He earned his B. Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur.

4. Shantanu Narayen: Hyderabad-born Shantanu Narayen was appointed as the CEO of Adobe Inc. on December 1, 2007.

5. Arvind Krishna: Hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Krishna was appointed as the CEO of computer hardware company IBM in January 2020.