Leena Nair was born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on Wednesday, June 11, 1969 (age 52 as of 2021). She attended Kolhapur’s Holy Cross Convent School for her education.
Leena earned her bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from Walchand College of Engineering in Sangli, Maharashtra (1986-1990). From 1990 to 1992, she attended Xavier School of Management (XLRI) in Jamshedpur to earn an MBA in Human Resource Management (Gold Medalist).
In addition to Jamshedpur, she worked in three other factories in Kolkata, Ambattur, Tamil Nadu, and Taloja, Maharashtra. Leena began as a management trainee at Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) in 1992, when just 2% of the company’s workers were women. Leena is the first female and first Asian chief human resources officer of the company, at 52 years old.
Lipton (India) Ltd appointed her to the rank of Factory Personnel Manager in 1993. Leena then worked in HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited) facilities in Kolkata (West Bengal), Ambattur (Tamil Nadu), and Taloja (Maharashtra). Leena joined Hindustan Unilever as Employee Relations Manager in 1996. In 1997, she was promoted to Management Development Planning Manager, and by 2000, she had been promoted to HR Manager at Hindustan Unilever India. She became the Human Resource Manager of Home and Personal Care India in 2003. Leena served as the General Manager HR of Home and Personal Care India after a year. In 2006, she was promoted to General Manager Human Resources at Hindustan Unilever India.
Nair was appointed executive director HR of Hindustan Unilever a year later, making her the first and youngest woman on the Hindustan Unilever Management Committee to lead HR. She was the first woman to join the Unilever South Asia Leadership Team after that.
In 2013, Leena went to Unilever’s London headquarters as global senior vice-president HR, with responsibility for leadership and organisational development. In the same year, she was appointed as the organization’s worldwide head of diversity. Leena assumed responsibility for the company’s expansion in different South Asian markets, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, as global head of diversity.
Nair was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Unilever in 2016, where she is responsible for the company’s human capital requirements. In an interview, Leena Nair noted that her personal objective as the first CHRO at Unilever was to create an inclusive atmosphere where all members of the varied society may participate and achieve in equal proportion. She went on to say, “My mission is to rekindle the human spirit in order to create a better business and a better planet.”
Leena led Unilever’s worldwide people strategy as the company’s CHRO, overseeing 160,000+ workers in over 100 countries. She made certain that the firm had the proper people in the correct jobs. Leena was named the next global chief executive of French fashion house Chanel on December 14, 2021. In January 2022, she is slated to take over as CEO of Chanel.
After announcing Leena as the new CEO of Chanel, it soon became the talk of the town. Social media was flooded with congratulations for the Indian origin CEO. Nooyi, her long-time friend and mentor, sent her one of the celebratory texts.
Earlier this month, as part of Unilever’s ‘Learn With Leena’ sessions, Nair spoke with Nooyi about her memoir, ‘My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future.’ Leena Nair has described Indra Nooyi as a friend and mentor.
“Indra is a trailblazer, exceptional woman leader, extra-ordinary business visionary leader, and the only woman who has led a business as CEO and Chairperson of a Fortune 50 company. I am proud to call her a mentor and a friend,” she said.
Nair identified Nooyi, an India-born business executive, as a buddy and mentor during the video chat.
“It’s been an honor to see you rise. In all of our interactions, you’ve shown a certain joie de vivre and determination, both of which are testaments to the leader you are. “Everyone, she’s one to keep an eye on,” said Indra Nooyi, the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, who congratulated Leena Nair on her appointment as CEO of Chanel, a premium fashion house. On Wednesday, former PepsiCo Chairman Indra Nooyi posted on Twitter that it was an honour to observe Leena Nair’s success and wished her the best of luck in “this new chapter.”
Throughout her career, Leena Nair has received many awards and recognitions. Queen Elizabeth II recognized her as one of the accomplished Indian Business Leaders in the United Kingdom in 2017. She received the title of LinkedIn Top Voice during 2018 to 2020.
She was also listed on the top 10 FT HERoes Champions of Women in Business by Financial Times between 2017 and 2019. The Economic Times named her Global Indian of the Year in 2020. Forbes India named her one of the most powerful women in the country for 2021. Nair was the Role Model of Year, The Great British Businesswoman’s Awards (2021). The Thinkers50 List – Thinkers Who Will Shape the Future of Business included her in 2019.
She will soon take over as CEO of Chanel. In response to her news of becoming the new global CEO of the fashion brand Chanel, Leena said, “I am humbled and honoured to be appointed the Global Chief Executive Officer of @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 potential, and in acting to have a positive impact in the world. 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 organisation.”
“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,” Unilever CEO Alan Jope said in a statement.