C. P. Krishnan Nair

9 Feb 1922
17 May 2014
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Chittarath Poovakkatt Krishnan Nair (February 9, 1922 – May 17, 2014) was an Indian businessman, who founded Leela Lace Ltd., a textile company in 1957 and later became the Founder-Chairman of the Leela Group of Hotels, established in 1986. and a 2010 recipient of the Padma Bhushan, given by Government of India.

Nair was born and brought up in Kannur district in North Kerala, India, one of the eight children of a government bill collector. He was married to Leela Nair and had two sons. His son Vivek is the chairman and managing director of the Leela Group, while Dinesh is the co-chairman of Leela group.

Nair, popularly called Captain Nair given his stint in the Indian Army, had also served under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. In 1950, he married Leela, the daughter of a handloom owner from Kannur, subsequently, he started helping his father-in-law in the latter’s garment export business, eventually taking it over and developing export markets, becoming one of the pioneers of the Bleeding Madras fabric, which became much popular in the 1960s. By the 1980s his textile business, called “Leela Lace” after his wife, was flourishing and had built textile factory in North Mumbai.

In 1957, he was part of a delegation of the Handloom Board to West Germany, which involved visits to Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg. Here after his stay at the Kempinsky Hotel in Budapest, he realized the need for a luxury hotel chain in India that could measure up to international standards. With the Sahar International Airport opening in 1981, a niche for a luxury hotel near it arose and thus he realised his three decade old dream with the launch of his first hotel in Mumbai as Hotel Leela, at Sahar, Mumbai in 1986, named Leela, after the wife; this was followed by the Leela Goa, the Leela Palace in Bangalore and the Leela Beach Resort in Thiruvananthapuram.

The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS) conferred him a Lifetime Achievement Award and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) awarded him the Global 500 Roll of Honour award in 1999. Eventually he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, by Government of India in 2010. He was also awarded the “Hotelier of The Century” Award by International Hotels and Restaurant Association, based in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2009. He stepped down as the chairman of Hotel Leela on 7 February 2013 and will be succeeded by his eldest son, Vivek Nair.

Krishnan Nair died at 3:30 AM on May 17, 2014 at Hinduja Hospital Mumbai, following a brief illness.

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