Starbucks names Indian-origin Laxman Narasimhan as new CEO

Company reworks its business model from a focus on cafes to mobile pickup and delivery

NEW YORK: Laxman Narasimhan, a veteran in leading and advising global consumer-facing brands, was named CEO of coffee giant Starbucks, joining a growing cohort of Indian-origin business leaders at the helm of global corporations.

Narasimhan, 55, was previously CEO of the UK-based Reckitt Benckiser, a multinational consumer health, hygiene and nutrition company. Narasimhan will join Starbucks on October 1, after relocating from London to Seattle. He will assume the leadership role and join the board of directors on April 1, 2023.

Reckitt Benckiser said in a statement that Narasimhan had decided for personal and family reasons to relocate to the United States. Narasimhan said: “Ältough it is difficult to leave, it is the right decision for me and my family.”

Narasimhan joins a growing list of Indian-origin CEOs at the helm of US-based global giants: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter head Parag Agrawal. Indra Nooyi had served as PepsiCo's CEO for 12 years before stepping down in 2018.

Narasimhan holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, University of Pune. He has an MA in German and International Studies from The Lauder Institute at The University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

The Starbucks statement added that Narasimhan brings nearly 30 years of experience leading and advising global consumer-facing brands.

The transition comes as Starbucks navigates a burgeoning US unionisation push following a difficult stretch for workers during Covid-19. Starbucks has responded to the drive by boosting investments in worker pay and stores.

Describing Narasimhan as an inspiring leader, Mellody Hobson, Independent Starbucks Board of Directors' chair said his deep, hands-on experience driving strategic transformations at global consumer-facing businesses makes him the ideal choice to accelerate Starbucks growth and capture the opportunities ahead of us.

Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz said

that when he learned about Narasimhan's desire to relocate, it became apparent that he is the “right leader to take Starbucks into its next chapter.

He is uniquely positioned to shape this work and lead the company forward with his partner-centered approach and demonstrated track record of building capabilities and driving growth in both mature and emerging markets.

Schultz, who helmed Starbucks for decades, said that as he got the opportunity to get to know Narasimhan, it became clear that he shares the company's passion for investing in humanity and in our commitment to our partners, customers, and communities.”

“The perspectives he brings will be a strong asset as we build on our heritage in this new era of greater well-being. I greatly look forward to our partnership over the coming months and years, said Schultz.

Narasimhan said he was humbled to join the global coffee giant.

Starbucks' commitment to uplift humanity through connection and compassion has long distinguished the company, building an unrivalled, globally admired brand that has transformed the way we connect over coffee,” said Narasimhan.

“I am humbled to be joining this iconic company at such a pivotal time, as the reinvention and investments in the partner and customer experiences position us to meet the changing demands we face today and set us up for an even stronger future,” he said.

“I look forward to working closely with Howard, the Board, and the entire leadership team and to listening and learning from Starbucks partners as we collectively build on this work to lead the company into its next chapter of growth and impact,” he said.

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