Leena Nair was born on Wednesday, 11 June 1969 (age 52 years; as of 2021), in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Her zodiac sign is Gemini. She did her schooling at Holy Cross Convent School in Kolhapur.
Leena attended Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli, Maharashtra, to pursue her graduation in electronics and telecommunication engineering (1986-1990). Thereafter, she enrolled herself in Xavier School of Management (XLRI), Jamshedpur, to pursue an MBA in Human Resource Management (Gold Medalist) from 1990 to 1992. LinkedIn- Leena Nair
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown
Parents & Siblings
Not much is known about her father. She lost her mother in June 2021.
Husband & Children
Leena is married to Kumar Nair, a businessman. The couple has two sons, Aryan Nair and Sidhant (Sid) Nair.
Leena started her career in 1992 with Unilever (Hindustan Unilever Limited) as a management trainee. At Unilever, she was one of the few female employees who opted for factory roles. In 1993, she was promoted to the position of Factory Personnel Manager of Lipton (India) Ltd. Subsequently, Leena worked at various factories of HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited) in Kolkata (West Bengal), Ambattur (Tamil Nadu), and Taloja (Maharashtra). In 1996, Leena took the role of Employee Relations Manager of Hindustan Lever. She was then promoted to the position of Management Development Planning Manager in 1997 and was elevated as HR Manager of Hindustan Lever India by 2000. In 2003, she was appointed as the Human Resource Manager of Home and Personal Care India. After a year, Leena worked as the General Manager HR of Home and Personal Care India. She was further elevated to the position of General Manager HR of Hindustan Lever India in 2006.
A year later, Nair took the charge of executive director HR of HUL; becoming the first and the youngest woman in the Management Committee of Hindustan Unilever to head HR. Subsequently, she became the first woman to be on the Unilever South Asia Leadership Team.
In 2013, Leena moved to the London headquarters of Unilever and was placed as Unilever’s global senior vice-president HR, responsible for leadership and organisational developement. In the same year, she took over the position of the global head of diversity in the organisation. As the global head of diversity, Leena took over the responsibility of the company’s growth in various South Asian markets including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
In 2016, Nair was promoted to the position of Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Unilever, responsible for the company’s human capital needs. On being the first CHRO at Unilever, Leena Nair, in an interview said that her personal goal was to build an inclusive environment where all members of the diverse society can contribute and succeed in equal measure. She further said,
My purpose is to ignite the human spark to build a better business and a better world.”
As the CHRO at Unilever, Leena headed the company’s global people agenda that spans across 160,000+ employees in over 100 countries. She made sure that the company had right personnel, in right roles.
On 14 December 2021, Leena was appointed as the new global chief executive of French fashion giant Chanel. She is expected to take over the reins at Chanel in January 2022.
Awards, Honours & Achievements
- Recognised as one of the accomplished Indian Business Leaders in the UK by HRH Queen Elizabeth II (2017)
- Listed in Top 10 list of FT HERoes Champions of Women in Business by the Financial Times (2017-2019)
- Secured a place in Thinkers50 List – Thinkers Who Will Shape the Future of Business (2019)
- Recognised as LinkedIn Top Voice (2018-2020)
- Global Indian of the Year by The Economic Times’ Prime Women Leadership Awards (2020)
- Role Model of Year by The Great British Businesswoman’s Awards (2021)
- Listed in Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women’s List (2021)
- Actress(es): Kajol, Julia Roberts
- Businessman: Satya Nadella
- Holiday Destination: Iceland
- Leena loves reading, running, and dancing to Bollywood numbers in her leisure time.
- She is fluent in five languages- Hindi, English, Malayalam, Marathi, and Spanish.
- Leena grew up in a large conservative joint family in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Growing up, she always desired to achieve something that would raise eyebrows and break the prevailing norms in her close society. In one of her interviews she shared that when she was a child, she had to fight for her education.
- During an interview, while sharing an incident from her childhood days, Leena said,
When I was a little girl, my aunt came home from a trip with a pair of jeans for me. I loved them! But I couldn’t wear them outside: I wasn’t allowed. It became a huge family drama. Luckily, I had a lot of female cousins who took my side. The short story is, I got to wear jeans.”
- One of her school teachers Ms Jeev Chahal, once revealed that Leena was the tallest girl in her class. Money Control
- Leena once shared in an interview that she loved public speaking.
- Leena once shared that when she began working at the factories of HUL, there were hardly any washrooms for the female staff there. Later, when the washroom got built, her co-workers started calling it Leena’s loo.
- In an interview, Leena shared that her learning mantra was to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
- In 2016, she became the first female, first Asian, and the youngest ever Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever.
- In 2021, she became the second Indian-origin woman to head a global company after Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo.
- Leena was also a member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE); responsible for delivering Unilever’s business and financial performance.
- On being announced the new global chief executive 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.
- In an interview, while thanking Leena for her outstanding services to Unilever for three decades, Alan Jope, the CEO of Unilever said,
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.”