Leena Nair: On the Nooyi Trail; Unilever’s HR Manager Leena Nair is Chanel’s Global CEO | International Business News – Times of India


MUMBAI: French luxury group Chanel has named Leena Nair, Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) for Unilever, as its global CEO. This makes Nair, born and raised in Kolhapur, the second woman of Indian descent to take over as global CEO after Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo).
Incidentally, Nooyi happens to be Nair’s mentor. Nair’s appointment is not only a major step for aspiring female leaders, it is also an important driving force for the HR function, to bring CHROs to the forefront of leadership candidacy.
A statement from Chanel said Alain Wertheimer (the owner) will switch to the role of global CEO and Nair, 52, will take on the role of global CEO based in London, UK. The new partnership “will further ensure long-term success as a private company that believes in creative freedom, cultivates human potential and acts to have a positive impact in the world,” it added.
The $ 10 billion Chanel competes with global luxury companies such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton), Hermes, Gucci, L’Oreal, Michael Kors, among others for $ 50 billion.
“I am humbled and honored to be named Global Chief Executive Officer for Chanel, an iconic and admired company. I am so inspired by what Chanel stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human beings. potential and to act to have a positive impact on the world, ”Nair said 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-driven organization. I will always be a proud proponent of Unilever and its ambition to make sustainable living commonplace, ”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 so than in her role as CHRO, where she has been a She has played a crucial role in building our purpose-driven, future-oriented organization, which is now the preferred employer. in over 50 countries globally.I am also particularly grateful for her leadership over the past two years and how our HR teams have helped Unilever cope with the many challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with great care, compassion and professionalism . ”
Under Nair’s leadership, Unilever moved the needle to obtain one gender-balanced workforce.
While it is rare to find a CHRO taking over as CEO, the announcement opens up such opportunities for HR executives given the rapid shifts that are taking place after the pandemic. People management and thus HR is now central to organizations. HR executives, by virtue of their function, would embody some of the new qualities required of a CEO today – empathy is the key trait that is gaining ground.
A gold medalist from XLRI Jamshedpur, Nair is a very famous HR leader globally. Recently, Nair said in a post on LinkedIn: “I always tell HR people to go with scammers … HR is no longer a backroom department, it’s a vital part of running any successful business. If you want to support your employees, you need to understand how the business works and you need to be visible in the business. ”
Commenting on her appointment, Keki Dadiseth, who chaired Hindustan Unilever when Nair was a rising star, told TOI: “She was always very competent and very ambitious and, most importantly, she did better with increased responsibility. She very much deserves her success. ”
In previous interactions with TOI, Nair had mentioned how she proactively approached her former leaders and leaders like Dadiseth for guidance on her career. She highlights this trait as one of the reasons for her success.
Nair, who studied at Holy Cross Convent School in Kolhapur and graduated as an electronics and telecommunications engineer from Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli, chose to pursue HR, much to the dismay of his father (an industrialist from Kolhapur). It was a major turning point for Nair, who decided to follow his heart. After joining HUL as a management student in 1992, Nair worked in various roles at factories, sales and the company’s headquarters in HUL. She implemented several changes and rose through the ranks to become CEO of HR. In 2016, she became the first woman as well as Asian and the youngest CHRO ever in Unilever and a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive, responsible for the company’s 150,000 people across more than 100 countries globally.
Nair’s career path provides a perspective on why it is important to do what one is passionate about. She often talks about her purpose being “to ignite the human spark to build a better business and a better world”. This year, Nair also appeared on Fortune India’s most powerful female list.
Nair breaks several stereotypes, not only in terms of gender, but also leadership qualities. While the world has mostly seen and preferred command and control kind of leaders, Nair, on the other hand, is vocal about qualities like humility and empathy. Recently, she even said how leaders would not become weak if they revealed their vulnerable side, or by admitting to having made mistakes.
Nair is also a non-executive member of BT plc, a member of the board of directors of Leverhulme Trust, and was a non-executive director of the UK’s business, energy and industrial strategy department.
Nair is married and has two sons and her interests include reading, running and Bollywood dancing.

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