Indian-origin executive Laxman Narasimhan on Monday officially assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of global coffee giant Starbucks, joining the growing cohort of business leaders originally hailing from India at the helm of global corporations. In September last year, Starbucks had announced that Narasimhan would become the company’s next chief executive officer and a member of the Starbucks Board of Directors.
Following the global search for the new leader of Starbucks to succeed company founder and now former CEO, Howard Schultz, Narasimhan joined Starbucks as incoming CEO on October 1, 2022 after relocating from London to the Seattle area. “Effective today, Laxman Narasimhan has assumed the role of chief executive officer and will join the company’s board of directors,” Starbucks said in a statement. Narasimhan will lead Starbucks Annual Shareholder Meeting on March 23. “As he ascends into the role, Narasimhan will continue engaging the leadership team, sharing his early learnings and insights and assessing opportunities for the company as they chart a path forward,” the company said.
Narasimhan, the former CEO of UK-based consumer health, hygiene and nutrition multinational Reckitt Benckiser, brings to Starbucks nearly 30 years of experience leading global consumer goods businesses and advising retail, grocery, restaurant and e-commerce companies. The company said that over the past five months, he has embarked on a unique immersion experience, traveling to work with employees in over 30 stores, manufacturing plants and in support centers around the world, “earning his barista certification” along the way.
“I am humbled to officially step into my role as Starbucks chief executive officer, leading our incredible team of more than 450,000 green apron partners around the world,” the company statement quoted Narasimhan as saying. He said the foundation laid by Schultz “building from scratch an iconic global brand fuelled by a lasting passion to uplift humanity” is truly remarkable, “and I am honoured to have the opportunity to build on this deep heritage.
“As a human connection business, we have limitless possibilities to deliver for our partners, our customers, our investors and our communities through every cup and every connection. I am excited to work alongside our partners worldwide to unlock the limitless future of Starbucks.”
With his appointment, Narasimhan joined the growing list of Indian-origin CEOs at the helm of global giants, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna. Indra Nooyi had served as PepsiCo’s CEO for 12 years before stepping down in 2018. Former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga was last month nominated by US President Joe Biden to lead the World Bank.
Narasimhan holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, University of Pune, India. He also has a Master of Arts in German and International Studies from The Lauder Institute at The University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. Starbucks said that it has unveiled a company-wide reinvention strategy and continues to deliver on more than USD 1 billion in investments in retail partners and stores for prioritized areas such as increased pay and sick time accrual, new financial well-being benefits, modernized training and collaboration, store innovation and equipment and the celebration of coffee.
Independent Starbucks Board of Directors chair Mellody Hobson said in the statement that Narasimhan’s “intensive immersion” into the business coupled with his extensive experience as a proven brand builder, innovator and operator have uniquely prepared him to lead Starbucks into its next phase of growth. “This immersion has deepened Laxman’s understanding of Starbucks culture and values. In this time of learning and listening, he has already won the hearts and minds of our partners around the world,” Hobson said.
Previously, Narasimhan has served as an executive in various leadership roles at PepsiCo, including as global chief commercial officer, where he was responsible for the company’s long-term growth strategy and commercial capabilities. Prior to PepsiCo, he spent 19 years at McKinsey & Company, where he advised companies across the retail, consumer goods, and healthcare industries in the US, Asia, and India. He is a trustee of the Brookings Institution, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Build Back Better Council and a member of Verizon’s Board of Directors, according to the Starbucks website.