Here’s How a Girl from Kolhapur Landed the Top Job with Chanel, the Iconic French Fashion House

Chanel’s global CEO, Leena Nair was the first female and youngest-ever Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Unilever. Here’s how a girl from Kolhapur landed the top job with an iconic French fashion house.

Leena Nair is the global chief executive officer (CEO) of the French luxury fashion house, Chanel. Leena hails from Kolhapur in Maharashtra but is now London based. She was the chief human resource officer (CHRO) of Unilever before.

She has done electronics engineering at Walchand College of Engineering. She then pursued management from XLRI, Jamshedpur where she graduated as a gold medallist.

She has thirty years of experience at Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). She started as a management trainee in 1992, at a time when only two per cent of the employees were women. At 52, Leena was the first female and first Asian chief human resources officer of the company. She was also featured among Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women 2021.

She also jokes that her time at college also equipped her well enough to deal with men. “There were 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,” Leena says.

Leena’s hands-on approach to solving problems and finding solutions to issues has been lauded by all at HUL. “I learnt so many lessons, about the factory and production, the shop-floor ecosystem, [and] the importance of resilience. It’s made me who I am. Hearing this can’t be done because it’s never been done before is normally the start of a conversation for me, where I’ll reply, it’s never been done? That’s fantastic. Tell me, how can we do it?” she said.

In this interview with Time, when asked about how she managed to stay positive through the COVID-19 crisis, Leena said, “I’ve written a gratitude journal every night for the last few years, and I do a 20-minute meditation practise every morning. Those little practices keep me sane and balanced as we go through this relentless exhaustion. When I go out for walks and have my run, I make sure to talk to my team so that they know I’m setting aside time for doing things that I love. I often joke that I’m the best Bollywood dancer in Unilever, so finding that time in a week to dance a bit too.”

She also said that one of her key takeaways during the pandemic has been the realisation that while people were facing the same storm, they were not all in the same boat. “We couldn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.

Credits: The Better India

Read the full story here.

-Staff Reporter



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