Chanel appoints Indian-born Leena Nair as new Global CEO

Alain Wertheimer, co-owner of Chanel, will now become global executive chair of Chanel

December 14, 2021: From Microsoft to the very recent Twitter appointment of Parag Agrawal as CEO, Chanel’s appointment of Indian-born Leena Nair as new global chief executive officer should maybe not come as a surprise. Indians are gaining top positions in the business community, fast gaining traction as not just hard workers, but also genius marketers and deep thinkers. 

Chanel CEO Leena Nair

However, the world of luxury has usually been conservative, with Europeans usually gaining the top seat. Ms. Nair, who spent 30 years at Unilever, most recently as chief human resources officer, is probably the first step by the family-owned brand to increase diversity. With her international background and expertise in human resources, it is said that Ms. Nair will help Chanel advance its diversity and inclusion ambitions – a job she did spectacularly well at Unilever. 

Ms. Nair will start the role end of January, assuming a title previously held by Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer. Mr. Wertheimer will now become global executive chair of Chanel, according to the company.

The first female, first Asian and youngest ever CHRO of Unilever, Ms. Nair first joined the group in 1992 as a management trainee of Hindustan Lever in India. By 2006 she had become general manager HR of Hindustan Lever. In 2013 she became senior vice president HR Leadership and Organizational Development and global head of diversity, and in 2016 took up her role as CHRO and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive.

This is not the first appointment of an Indian at a high rank in the international luxury business. Indian-origin Anish Melwani was appointed as the CEO of LVMH Inc., the US-based subsidiary of LVMH, in 2015, and is still at the position. 

We hope this ‘trend’ to become even more normal in the coming years, as diversity increases in the luxury business with more Indians, and more women assuming top positions.

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