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XLRI Alumni to Chanel CEO: Meet Leena Nair who Joins the Club of Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella

Leena Nair, the new Chanel CEO
Leena Nair, the new Chanel CEO

Who is Leena Nair, the new Chanel CEO: Leena Nair is being hailed as a serial glass-ceiling breaker after her appointment as the Chanel boss

Swastika Das Sharma
Updated: December 16, 2021, 11:37 IST

Leena Nair became the first Indian to take over as the new global head of French luxury fashion house Chanel. Leena Nair will now be serving as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Chanel at the global level. As per a statement by Chanel, Nair would join the group in January and that the new appointments would ensure its “long-term success as a private company."  The business executive, who served as the top HR executive of Unilever, joined the growing list of Indian-origin CEOs getting the topmost ranks at major global companies. Nair will join the luxury fashion brand, known for its No. 5 perfume, in January.

Leena Nair grew up in Maharashtra’s Kohlapur and did her primary education in the state. Completing her Electronics and Telecommunications engineering degree from Walchand College of Engineering in Sangli, Nair joined XLRI Jamshedpur thereafter. From there, she got her MBA degree in Human Resources in 1992. Leena Nair, a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), holds the record of being the “the first female, first Asian, youngest ever" chief human resource executive (CHRO) at Unilever.


Nair’s professional career, that spans for almost 30 years now, is a witness to her breaking multiple glass ceilings. She completed her MBA from Xavier School of Management — one of the top B-schools in India — and a year later joined Lipton tea company. There, she held a unique profile too: Leena Nair was one of the rare woman employees at Lipton India at the time who had chosen to work at the factory, and was appointed as the as the factory personnel manager of Lipton Ltd in 1993.

“I am humbled and honoured to be appointed the Global Chief Executive Officer of @CHANEL, an iconic and admired company," Leena Nair wrote on her Twitter profile on Tuesday, December 14, after getting her appointment.


A gold medalist from XLRI, Nair worked in factory roles at different cities including Kolkata in West Bengal, Ambattur in Tamil Nadu and Taloja in Maharashtra.

The British national, who was interviewed by Forbes magazine when she was working at Unilever, said she believed that leaders create the culture of a company. “eadership is central to achieving business goals. Leaders create the culture of a company. You can put whatever strategy you want on a piece of paper, but it’s not going to get executed unless the leaders model the right behaviors," she told the magazine.


“I’m so thrilled to have words like “compassion" and “empathy" take center stage. Who would have thought that? You have introduced the concept of wise compassion, which is a beautiful way to say that you really need the wisdom of your intuition. You need the compassion that comes from your heart. I am really delighted to see these words becoming more mainstream in leadership, and more leaders recognizing why this is so important," Nair added.


Leena Shinde, with her appointment as the Chanel CEO, joins the rank of Indian-origin corporate bosses like Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, who call the shots at Global Inc. In a social media post, she described former Pepsico chief Indra Nooyi as her mentor and friend, and is the second woman to take a leading role after Nooyi at a global company. Nair, an outsider to the fashion industry, is being hailed as a “serial glass-ceiling breaker" after her appointment.

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first published: December 16, 2021, 10:54 IST