Leena Nair: On the Nooyi Trail; Unilever HR chief Leena Nair is global CEO of Chanel | International business news

MUMBAI: French luxury group Chanel has appointed Leena Nair, Unilever’s Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO), as its global CEO. Nair, born and raised in Kolhapur, is the second woman of Indian origin to take on the position of global CEO after Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo).
By the way, Nooyi is Nair’s mentor. Not only is Nair’s appointment a huge plus for aspiring female leaders, it is also a major boost for the HR function to move CHROs to the forefront of candidacy for leadership roles.
A statement from Chanel said that Alain Wertheimer (the owner) will take on the role of Global Executive Chairman and Nair, 52, will take on the role of global CEO based in London, UK. The new partnership “will continue to ensure long-term success as a private company that believes in freedom of creation, cultivates human potential and makes a positive impact on the world,” she added.
The $ 10 billion brand Chanel competes with global luxury companies such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton), Hermes, Gucci, L’Oreal, Michael Kors, and others valued at $ 50 billion.
“I am honored and honored to be named Global Chief Executive Officer of Chanel, an iconic and admired company. I’m so inspired by what Chanel stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in developing human potential and in having a positive impact on the world, ”said Nair in a post on LinkedIn.

“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-built organization. I will always be a proud advocate of Unilever and its ambition to make sustainable living everyday, ”she added.
In a statement announcing Nair’s decision to leave the company in January 2022, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said: “Leena has been a pioneer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more than her role as CHRO where she has been a driving force behind our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, transforming our leadership development, and preparing for the future of work. She played a crucial role in building our purpose-oriented, sustainable organization, which is now the preferred employer in over 50 countries around the world. I am also particularly grateful for your leadership over the past two years and for how our HR teams have helped Unilever to master the many challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with great care, compassion and professionalism. ”
Under Nair’s leadership, Unilever moved the needle to reach a gender equitable workforce.
While it is rare for a CHRO to assume the role of CEO, the announcement opens such avenues for HR managers in the face of rapid changes following the pandemic. People management and thus HR is a key issue for organizations today. HR leaders, by virtue of their role, would embody some of the emerging traits required of a CEO today – empathy is the most important trait that is growing in importance.
A gold medalist from XLRI Jamshedpur, Nair is a world-renowned human resource leader. Recently, Nair said in a post on LinkedIn, “I always tell HR professionals to go with bragging rights … HR is no longer a backroom department, but an integral part of any successful business. If you want to support your employees, you have to understand how the company works and be visible within the company. ”
Commenting on her appointment, Keki Dadiseth, the chairman of Hindustan Unilever when Nair was a rising star, told TOI: “She has always been very competent and very ambitious, and most importantly, better with increasing responsibility. She has rightly earned her success. ”
In previous interactions with TOI, Nair had mentioned how she had proactively reached out to her former managers and executives like Dadiseth for advice on her career. She highlights this quality as one of the reasons for her success.
Nair, who studied at the Holy Cross Convent School in Kolhapur and passed out as an electronics and telecommunications engineer at the Walchand College of Engineering in Sangli, decided to join the human resources department to the horror of her father (an industrialist from Kolhapur). That was a major turning point for Nair, who decided to follow her heart. After joining HUL in 1992 as a management trainee, Nair worked in various roles in factories, sales and corporate headquarters at HUL. She brought several changes with her and rose to Executive Director HR. In 2016 she became the first woman and Asian and the youngest CHRO of Unilever and a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive, responsible for the company’s 150,000 employees in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Nair’s career path offers a perspective on why doing what you are passionate about is important. She often speaks of her goal of “igniting the human spark to build a better business and a better world”. That year, Nair was also on Fortune India’s list of Most Powerful Women.
Nair breaks with multiple stereotypes, not just about gender, but leadership qualities as well. While the world has mostly seen and preferred the type of command and control organs, on the other hand, Nair talks about qualities such as humility and empathy. Recently, she even said that exposing their vulnerable side or admitting mistakes does not make leaders weak.
Nair is also a non-executive member of BT plc, a director of the Leverhulme Trust and was a non-executive director in the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Nair is married with two sons and is interested in reading, running and Bollywood dancing.