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Meet Leena Nair, the First Indian-Origin Global CEO of Chanel

The 52-year-old #GirlBoss will be stepping down as the "the first female, first Asian, youngest-ever" Chief Human Resources Officer of Unilever. 

"The first female, first Asian, youngest-ever" Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Unilever," reads Leena Nair's LinkedIn profile. But, after 30 long years in the British MNC, in a historic feat, the Indian-origin member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) steps down to pursue a fulfilling career at the French luxury fashion house, Chanel, founded by couturière Coco Chanel in 1910.

 

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"Leena Nair, CHRO, has decided to leave the company in January 2022 to pursue a new career opportunity as Global Chief Executive Officer, Chanel Ltd," Unilever said in a statement while announcing the change to its leadership executive. It was yesterday that Leena joined the long list of Indian-origin executives that have been appointed at the helm of the *biggest* global companies. According to reports, Chanel's global CEO will be based out of London.

 

Her Career Timeline

 

1. Back in 1992, she joined the Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) as a management trainee after obtaining a gold medal from the Xavier School of Management in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.

2. She further went on to become the factory personnel manager of Lipton (India) Ltd in 1993.

3. In 1996, Leena was appointed as the Employee Relations Manager by the organisation and was elevated to the position of HR manager of Hindustan Unilever India by 2000. 

4. In 2004, she became the general manager HR of 'home and personal care India' by the company, and was elevated to the position of general manager HR in 2006.

5. In 2007, she assumed the title of executive director HR of Hindustan Unilever Ltd., and in 2013, was elevated as Unilever's senior vice president, HR, responsible for leadership and organisational development. She also took over as the global head of diversity in the same year.

6. In 2016, Leena Nair became the youngest-ever, first female, and first Asian to be appointed as the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Unilever. 

 

"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," said Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever. 

 

Early Life and Education 

 

Leena Nair was born in 1969 in Maharashtra's Kolhapur and completed her schooling at the Holy Cross Convent School. She pursued an Engineering degree—specialising in Electronics and Telecommunications—from Walchand College in Sangli, Maharashtra. Later, she graduated with a Gold Medal from the Xavier School of Management in Jamshedpur (1990-1992), where she pursued an MBA in Human Resources. After Jamshedpur, she started working at three different factories in Kolkata, Ambattur, Tamil Nadu and Taloja, Maharashtra. 

 

Achievements and Accolades

 

1. In 2017, Leena Nair was recognised as one of the accomplished Indian Business Leaders in the UK by HRH Queen Elizabeth II. 

2. She also made it to the Top 10 list of FT HERoes Champions of Women in Business by the Financial Times (2017-2019). 

3. Leena was included in the Thinkers50 List—Thinkers Who Will Shape the Future of Business in 2019. 

4. In 2020, she won the 'Global Indian of the Year' award, presented by The Economic Times' Prime Women Leadership Awards.

5. This year, she won 'Role Model of Year' by The Great British Businesswoman's Awards. 

6. Leena Nair has also been featured on Fortune India's Most Powerful Women's List of 2021.