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Awe-inspiring story of new Chanel Boss Leena Nair who joins list of Indian-origin CEOs

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Leena Nair was once Chief Human Resources Officer of Unilever. She resigned from that position and is now CEO of Chanel, the French luxury fashion giant.

Leena Nair, who grew up in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, will take over as Global Chief Executive Officer of French luxury fashion label Chanel next month, joining the ranks of Indian-origin corporate titans at Global Inc.

Nair, who is 52 years old now, was Unilever’s first female and youngest-ever Chief Human Resources Officer, a job she left to join the famed luxury business.

Nair is delighted and honoured to be named Global Chief Executive Officer of @CHANEL, an iconic and recognised firm, she wrote on Twitter.

She is an industry outsider who is not part of the Paris fashion scene and has been dubbed a “serial glass-ceiling breaker.”

According to her LinkedIn page, Nair completed her MBA in 1992 from XLRI Jamshedpur in human resources. Before that she earned her bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering from Sangli, Maharashtra’s Walchand College of Engineering. Nair then joined HUL as a trainee and worked her way up the ranks. She is set to begin her new job at the end of January.

Nair referred to former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who was born in India, as a friend and mentor in her social media posts.

She joins the ranks of Indian-origin executives such as Sundar Pichai, Parag Agrawal, and Satya Nadella, who lead top multinational corporations.

Unilever CEO Alan Jope commended her for her remarkable contribution to the company over the last three decades in a statement, and praised her as a pioneer throughout her career.

Very few foreigners have reached the top of the tightly controlled family design firm, and Leena Nair is one of those few. The business was started in 1910 as a hat boutique on rue Cambon in Paris by fashion legend Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and evolved to become a byword for French luxury.

Chanel is most recognised now for its tweed suits, quilted purses, and No. 5 perfume.

Nair, who oversaw 150,000 workers at Unilever, would be stationed in London in her new position.

She tweeted, “I’m overwhelmed by the affection and support I’ve received since my appointment as CEO of @CHANEL. Thank you very much! Please trust that I am reading every comment, even if I do not respond to everyone personally.”

Many Indian-born executives had previously risen through the ranks of global corporations. Parag Agrawal, an IIT graduate, was recently selected as the next CEO of Twitter.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Shantanu Narayen, Chairman of Adobe; and Arvind Krishna, Chairman of IBM are all Indian-born CEOs.

This year, Rajeev Suri was named CEO of Inmarsat, while Punit Renjen is the CEO of Deloitte and Vasant Narasimhan is the CEO of Novartis.

Other India-born executives at global majors include Ivan Manuel Menezes (Diageo), Sanjay Mehrotra (Micron), Niraj S. Shah (Wayfair), Nikesh Arora (Palo Alto Networks), George Kurian (NetApp),and Dinesh C. Paliwal (Harman International Industries).

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