Wednesday, December 15 2021

Dive In


The petitioners want the court to interrogate the policy choice of the establishment which was entrusted by law for the defence of the nation. This is impermissible.

That’s the Supreme Court upholding the government’s decision to broaden three Himalayan highways—over the concerns of environmentalists who argued that an extra-wide road would lead to “frequent blockages, landslides and recurring slope failures.” But the Ministry of Defence insists it is essential for rapid troop movement. Indian Express explains the Char Dham project, while this Hindu op-ed explains why it is an environmental blunder.

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Big Story

Yet another India-born CEO: Meet Leena Nair

The TLDR: French fashion house Chanel named Leena Nair as its global CEO—who will now run one of the world’s biggest luxury brands. This is just the latest achievement in a career marked with a number of ‘firsts’. Here’s a quick introduction to the latest NRI hotshot in town.


Who is Leena Nair?

Education: Unlike many other Indian-born CEOs, Nair did not follow the typical IIT/Ivy League track. She studied at Holy Cross Convent School in Kolhapur and got a degree in engineering from the Walchand College of Engineering in Sangli. She went on to study management at XLRI—where she earned a gold medal.


The early years at HUL: Nair started her career in 1992 as a summer trainee in Hindustan Unilever—and became one of the first women managers to opt for a factory stint in the industrial belt of Taloja. She was also the first woman on HUL’s management committee and its youngest executive director. And she soon became famous for her HR skills:


“During her stint at HUL, she transformed employee relations from a fire-fighting function to a proactive employee-centric one. For instance, HUL had 40 units and 96 unions with whom she negotiated. From losing 50,000 man days per year, Nair helped reduce this to less than 100 man days.”


Next, Unilever Global: In 2013, Nair moved to the company’s headquarters in London as global senior vice-president for leadership and organisation development—and never looked back. In 2016, she became the first woman and Asian to be appointed the company’s Chief HR Officer. At 46, Nair was also the youngest ever CHRO in Unilever’s history. This year, she was #16 in Fortune’s list of most powerful Indian women in the world.


Big point to note: Nair has drawn notice for a number of diversity-friendly initiatives such as ‘Career by Choice’—which allows women who have fallen off the career track to reenter the workforce. Under Nair’s leadership, Unilever has achieved a 50/50 gender balance across global leadership. Also notable: Her commitment to pay a living wage across the company’s whole supply chain.


Key quote to note: In a Harper’s Bazaar interview, she said this of her career of many ‘firsts’:


“Being the first woman in every single job I have done, means I get to see just what it means to be in a job that feels built for someone else. I always say, ‘We're all in the same storm, we're not in the same boat’. My experiences have made me incredibly conscious of wanting the workplace to work for everyone, and knowing that that means catering to individual circumstances.”


Personal deets: on Nair are scarce. All we know is that she is married to Kumar Nair, who runs his own financial services company, and has two sons. But here’s a fun photo from her Insta handle:


Ok, tell me about her Chanel gig

Headlines that matter

Aadhaar for sex workers

The Supreme Court has ordered all States and Union Territories to start issuing voter ID, Aadhaar and ration cards to sex workers, declaring: “The fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen of the country irrespective of his/her vocation.” FYI: this was in response to the fact that state governments have still not complied with a decade-old SC order to give ration cards to sex workers. (The Hindu)

Tesla accepts dogecoin

Tesla will now accept payment in Dogecoin for its merchandise on an experimental basis. The meme currency’s value immediately jumped by 20%. In other Elon Musk-related news: Lots of people are mad that TIME chose him as the person of the year, calling it the “worst choice ever.” (Reuters)

Nope, rocket scientists aren’t that bright

New research shows that brain surgeons and rocket scientists—widely considered exemplars of brilliance—aren’t necessarily more clever than the rest of us. The study tested 329 aerospace engineers and 72 neurosurgeons in areas like working memory, attention and emotion processing. Rocket scientists did not perform any better than the average person. Neuroscientists had different scores in only two areas. They were faster in solving problems, but their memory recall was slower. The study concluded:


“It is possible that both neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers are unnecessarily placed on a pedestal. Other specialties might deserve to be on that pedestal, and future work should aim to determine the most deserving profession.”

Beckham gets into the holiday mood

David Beckham channeled a moment of Spice Girls nostalgia by sporting a suitably hideous holiday sweater. (People)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • Two male pheasants at the Lishan Nature Reserve


A list of curious facts

  • Did you know that scientists are using masks coated with ostrich antibodies to detect if you have Covid?
  • Bad news for those who believe in astrology
  • An iPhone app that turns 2D videos into 3D
  • The world’s largest salt flat

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