Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks has a new leader and his name is Laxman Narasimhan.
Raised in Pune, India, Narasimhan has spent the past few decades building his career while traveling around the globe. After completing a mechanical engineering degree in India, he moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s to study at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a master's in German and international studies as well as an MBA from the prestigious Wharton business school.
Narasimhan, who also speaks six languages, began his career at consulting giant McKinsey & Company, where he spent nearly 20 years focusing on consumer retail, and technology practices across the U.S. and Asia. In 2012, he left the consulting world to join PepsiCo, where he held various roles including global chief commercial officer. In this capacity, he oversaw the beverage behemoth’s long-term strategy and digital capabilities. While at PepsiCo, he also served as CEO of the company’s operations in Latin America, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Continuing his upward trajectory, in September 2019, Narasimhan joined British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser. As the first outsider to hold the position of CEO since the company’s 1999 launch, he helped grow the e-commerce business of Reckitt, launched numerous initiatives and notably supported the company's frontline workforce during the pandemic.
History repeated itself in October 2022 when Narasimhan became the first external (albeit interim) CEO of Starbucks, as all previous CEOs had held positions at the company prior to taking the helm. His status at the company was recently changed to official CEO, a transition that occurred two weeks before the expected April 1, 2023 date. Narasimhan, 55, is new to the coffee industry. But his 30+ years of proven success has Starbucks leadership and stockholders excited about the future.
In an interesting turn of events, the executive has also shown a willingness to embrace some manual labor. In a letter to employees, the newly minted CEO described how he spent the mandatory 40 hours of training required by Starbucks to become a certified barista. As a gesture of solidarity with the Starbucks workforce, he even added a pledge: "To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month."
Beside his ongoing CEO and barista duties, Narasimhan also currently serves as a trustee of the Brookings Institution, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the U.K.'s Build Back Better Council and sits on Verizon's board of directors.