Laxman Narasimhan© GettyImages

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Laxman Narasimhan

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Gayatri Rangachari Singh

Why he matters: From the boardroom to the barista station, this CEO of Starbucks, with his roots in Pune, has worked his way up to the cream. Laxman Narasimhan concocts the perfect blend of prudence, passion and perseverance, one cuppa joe at a time.

Laxman Narasimhan’s appointment as the Chief Executive of Starbucks in October 2022 begged one question: was there no area of US business where Indians could not succeed?

After all, the world’s largest coffee chain is the ultimate global consumer company. Headquartered in Seattle, it boasts 35,771 stores worldwide and presence in 80 countries, and has doubled year-on-year growth in the past decade. Narasimhan, a 30-year veteran of global consumer products businesses, seemed ideally suited for the job, as before Starbucks, he had led Reckitt (the MNC behind products such as Dettol and Lysol), spent years at PepsiCo, and put in 19 years at McKinsey, where he led the New Delhi office till 2012. The Pune born-and-bred Narasimhan speaks six languages, pursued engineering in the city, has an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in German and international studies, also from UPenn.

His family suffered tragic losses early on, with an older sister dying before he was born and an older brother passing away when Narasimhan was only six years old. He had to scrape together money for a visa and his education in the West and could only afford one meal a day during summer school in Germany.

Soon, fortune turned, and Narasimhan’s career took him around the world. His former Pune classmates describe him as rooted and humble. They say he participates in their WhatsApp group chats, sharing pictures of music concerts he attends as an avid music buff.

Narasimhan lives in Connecticut with his wife; they have two children. As CEO of Starbucks, he’s said he will work in cafés alongside baristas once a month for a half-day shift—and perhaps indulge in his favourite doppio espresso macchiato with some hot skimmed milk!

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!