Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2022

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Leena Nair


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LEENA NAIR, who become the new CEO of French fashion house Chanel in January, has joined a long list of Indian-origin corporate executives steering global brands.

“I am humbled and honoured to be appointed the global chief executive officer of Chanel, an iconic and admired company,” she wrote on social media.

“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.”

Nair has the reputation of being the first female, first Asian and youngest-ever chief human resource officer at Unilever, the company she joined as a management trainee nearly 30 years ago and rose through the ranks.

According to the British Indian, building a gender-balanced workplace has been one of her priorities and she strove to promote diversity and inclusion.

Born in 1969 in Kolhapur, a city in Maharashtra, India, Nair graduated in electronics and telecommunication at Walchand College of Engineering in nearby Sangli.

She obtained her master’s degree in business management with a gold medal from the noted institute XLRI, before joining Hindustan Unilever, the Indian arm of the British consumer goods giant Unilever, in 1992, which back then was a male-dominated workforce.

‘It was 3,000 boys and 18 girls in engineering college and the four years there toughened me up, made me thick skinned and I learnt how to claw my way through a largely male-dominated space’, she told the Khaleej Times.

Fifteen years later, she became the first woman to be appointed to the company’s south Asia leadership team, where she led the talent and organisation strategy.

“I was the first woman to do sales at HUL, the first to visit a factory. I feel I have been privileged to receive opportunities to break

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