Leena Nair, the British-Indian business executive, has ascended to the position of Global CEO at Chanel, one of the world's most iconic luxury brands.
Her remarkable journey from her early life in Maharashtra, India, to the upper echelons of the business world serves as a testament to her dedication and leadership.
Leena Nair was born on June 11, 1969, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, into a Hindu family. Her educational journey started at the Holy Cross Convent High School in Kohlapur, followed by The New College Kolhapur.
Her pursuit of knowledge led her to obtain a bachelor's degree in electronics and telecommunication (E&TC) Engineering at Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli, Maharashtra.
She furthered her education at the prestigious XLRI – Xavier School of Management, graduating as a gold medallist between 1990-1992. Her early career included working in various factories across India, which allowed her to gain valuable insights into the manufacturing industry.
Leena Nair's illustrious career began at Unilever, where she initially joined as a summer intern. Her dedication and talent quickly shone through, leading to her becoming a management trainee at Hindustan Unilever in 1992.
Over the next fifteen years, Nair held various roles in factories, sales, and corporate headquarters. In 2007, she assumed the role of Executive Director HR at Hindustan Unilever Limited.
Nair's exceptional journey within Unilever also included twenty years of dedicated service to the company before she relocated to the global headquarters in London.
In 2016, Leena Nair made history by becoming Unilever's "first female, first Asian, youngest ever" Chief Human Resources Officer. Her impact on the company was profound, setting the stage for her later endeavours.
In December 2021, Leena Nair embarked on a new adventure as the Chief Executive Officer of Chanel, an iconic luxury brand known for its timeless fashion and elegance. She officially assumed the role in January 2022, bringing her innovative approach to a historic brand.
Nair's tenure at Chanel has been characterised by her hands-on approach, involving visits to over 100 company retail locations, manufacturing sites, and regional offices. She has engaged closely with key fashion leaders, including Chanel's creative director, Virginie Viard.
Her initiatives have paved the way for several successful launches and expansions as Chanel invests further in its retail business.
N°1 de Chanel, an eco-focused cosmetic, beauty, and fragrance line, reflects her vision for the brand. Moreover, Chanel has introduced private salons for its top clients, emphasising the importance of personalised experiences.
Leena Nair counts influential figures like Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, and Nigel Higgins, Chairman of Barclays Bank, among her mentors, a testament to her industry standing.
Leena Nair's influence extends beyond the corporate world. She has taken on significant roles outside her day-to-day responsibilities.
Her role as a Non-Executive Board Member at BT plc, member of the Trust Board at Leverhulme Trust, and Steering Committee member at the World Economic Forum's "The Future of Education, Gender, and Work" project underscores her dedication to driving change on a global scale.
Nair is also a Leadership Council Member at the International Centre for Research on Women and has served as a Non-Executive Director for the UK Government's Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
Leena Nair's stellar career has not gone unnoticed.
She has been recognised and honoured by several prestigious institutions and publications, including Forbes India's Top Self-Made Women's List, where she was featured in 2022. She was named "Role Model of the Year" at The Great British Businesswoman's Awards in 2021.
Her inclusion in Fortune India's Most Powerful Women's List for 2021 underscores her indomitable influence.
Leena Nair's impact on the business world has earned her a place on Thinkers50's list of "Thinkers Who Will Shape the Future of Business" in 2019.
Her dedication to championing women in business is evident through her inclusion in the Financial Times' "Top 10 list of FT HERoes Champions of Women in Business" from 2017 to 2019.
Beyond her professional life, Leena Nair is the daughter of K. Karthikeyan, with industrialists Vijay Menon and Sachin Menon as her cousins. Her marriage to Kumar Nair, a financial services entrepreneur, has brought her two sons.
Her personal journey serves as a source of inspiration for aspiring business leaders and showcases the possibilities that determination and hard work can bring.
In conclusion, Leena Nair's journey from her educational beginnings in India to her current role as Global CEO of Chanel stands as a testament to her resilience, dedication, and innovative thinking.
Her influence extends not only through her career but also through her advocacy for human-centred workplaces and compassionate leadership. Her career and accomplishments serve as a shining example for those aspiring to make a significant impact in the business world.