May 29, 2024

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Another crown for India: Chanel appoints Unilever executive Leena Nair as CEO

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After the tech industry’s power trio, Nair has taken over as boss at the 111-year-old French luxury brand; Alain Wertheimer, who owns Chanel with his brother Gerard Wertheimer, will act as global executive chairman.

Another Indian has landed the top job with a global leader.

Barely two years after Sundar Pichai became boss at Alphabet, five months after Satya Nadella became chairman at Microsoft and less than a month after Parag Agrawal succeeded Jack Dorsey at Twitter, another Indian has bagged a coveted role, only this time in the fashion industry. Leena Nair has been named CEO of the French luxury group Chanel.

The group on Tuesday named Unilever executive Nair as its new Global Chief Executive, based in London.

The group said in a statement that French billionaire Alain Wertheimer, who owns Chanel with his brother Gerard Wertheimer, would move to the role of global executive chairman.

All the statements regarding the 52-year-old Nair’s appointment, whether from the luxury brand or the consumer leader, highlight her ability to deliver business outcomes while retaining a humane and compassionate approach.

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Chanel’s statement remarked on Nair’s “global reputation for progressive and human centered leadership, delivering significant business impact”. It described her as a “visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes”.

Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO, thanked Nair for her “outstanding contribution”. Nair’s career at the global consumer goods company spanned 30 years, most recently as the chief of human resources and a member of Unilever’s executive committee.

Nair holds the distinction of being “the first female, first Asian, youngest ever” chief human resources officer (CHRO) of Unilever. She joined Hindustan Unilever in 1992 after passing out from one of the top B-schools in the country–the Xavier School of Management—with a gold medal.

“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,” he said.

He added that her leadership helped their HR teams manage “the many challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with great care, compassion and professionalism”.

Chanel, known for its tweed suits, quilted handbags and No. 5 perfume, said Nair would join the group in January adding that the new appointments would ensure its “long-term success as a private company.”

(With inputs from Reuters.)

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