Born and raised in Kannur, Kerela, Captain C. P. Krishnan Nair is the founder and chairman of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. From a young freedom fighter, then an officer serving in the Indian Army, to a pioneer in the handloom industry, and later as a major textile exporter, Nair has risen to fame and success through sheer grit, natural confidence and discerning style.
Nair received his early education at a small elementary school in his native village. A born rebel, he joined the freedom movement at the age of 13 and later became an officer in the Indian Army. In 1951, he resigned his commission and helped establish the All India Handloom Board. He was instrumental in developing and marketing bleeding Madras, a hand-spun yarn from India in the United States, which met with legendary success in starting exports to America. By 2001, he was the recipient of the prestigious Golden Globe Award for the highest exports in clothing in India from The Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.
His frequent business trips to Europe and America exposed him to hotels with high service standards, inspiring him to make his first forays into the luxury hospitality sector. At the age of 65, he started to build The Leela group of hotels, bringing his Indian dream to life, which today has become one of the most celebrated indigenous hospitality groups in the luxury segment.
The first Leela hotel launched in Mumbai in 1987, the same year Nair signed a marketing alliance with Kempinski. Today, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has seven luxury properties in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Udaipur, Goa and Kovalam with new hotels opening in Chennai, Agra, Jaipur and Lake Ashtamudi in Kerala. Nair’s mission is to delight and exceed his guests’ expectations through gracious Indian hospitality, known in the ancient Indian scriptures as Atithi Devo Bhava or ‘Guest is God.’
Globally recognised as an environmentalist, hotelier and visionary, Nair has been the recipient of many prestigious accolades. For his unstinting efforts in environmental conservation, he received the Global 500 Laureate Roll of Honour by the United Nations Environment Program in 1999 from Emperor Akihito of Japan. Lauding him as a doyen hotelier, the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences honoured him with the Lifetime Achievement Five Star Diamond Award in 2009; the Green Hotelier Award by the Geneva based International Hotel and Restaurant Association (IH&RA) and the Maharana Mewar Foundation’s Uday Singh Award for “Outstanding Practical Achievements in the Protection and Improvement of the Environment” in 2002. In 2008, Business Week, US listed him among the 50 global octogenarians who still ‘rock the world’. Recent awards in 2010 include the Hall of Fame Award at the Hotel Investment Forum India held in Mumbai and the ‘Hotelier of the Century’ Award given by the International Hotel and Restaurant Association. Nair also received the highest Indian civilian honour - the Padma Bhushan, from Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the Honourable President of India.
Even today, Nair’s indomitable spirit and enthusiasm have him working on elaborate expansion plans - for both The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, and India.