Starbucks Names Laxman Narasimhan as New CEO

Starbucks Names Laxman Narasimhan as New CEO

The business world points to Laxman Narasimhan’s time at Reckitt as an example of how he can quickly improve the financial position of a company.

Starbucks has appointed longtime Reckitt CEO and PepsiCo executive Laxman Narasimhan as their new CEO beginning October 1, 2022 after relocating from London to the Seattle area. Until then, he will work closely with interim CEO, Howard Schultz, through April 1, 2023. Here’s what you need to know about Laxman Narasimhan and what he should be prioritizing in his new role.

Who is Laxman Narasimhan?

Narasimhan has been the CEO of British consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant Reckitt Benckiser Group for the past three years. At Reckitt, which owns brands like Lyson and Durex,he earned praise for orchestrating a successful restructuring, quickly cutting costs, selling underwhelming brands and realigning the business for growth. 

Previously, he was global chief commercial officer at PepsiCo and had overseen its Latin American and European regions. Narasimhan has also served as a senior partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., where he focused on its consumer, retail and technology practices in the US, Asia and India.

Related: Here’s Why Starbucks’ Chicken Sandwich was Recalled

After earning an engineering degree in his hometown from the University of Pune, Narasimhan left India at 24 to pursue graduate studies in the US. He holds a master’s degree in German and international studies from The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Along the way, Narasimhan, now 55, learned to speak German, English, Spanish and three different Indian dialects, according to the British newspaper Daily Telegraph. Narasimhan is married with two children, but keeps his personal life private.

What Narasimhan Should Prioritize at Starbucks

In a press release, Schultz said Narasimhan “is uniquely positioned to shape this work and lead the company forward with his partner-centered approach and demonstrated track record of building capabilities and driving growth in both mature and emerging markets.”

Narasimhan will be taking over an iconic company with significant strengths. Starbucks reported record demand this year between April and June as strong US sales made up for continuing closures in China, the company’s second-largest market. However, Starbucks also faces ongoing challenges, including an unprecedented unionization effort, which it opposes. 

Schultz has been working on a plan, dubbed The Reinvention, to redesign store layouts, upgrade equipment and bolster employees, who came out of the pandemic feeling harassed and underappreciated. Starbucks announced a $1 billion investment in employee wages and benefits last fall and added $200 million more for pay, worker training and other benefits in May.

A priority will be revamping Starbucks’ culture as more than 200 US stores have voted to unionize since late last year and turnover has significantly increased. With drive-thru and mobile orders accounting for 70 percent of Starbucks’ sales nationwide, the company is investing in equipment and procedures to improve speed, not only to reduce wait times, but also stress on staff. Beyond labor, commodity inflation remains a challenge.

“I look forward to working closely with Howard, the Board, and the entire leadership team — and to listening and learning from Starbucks partners — as we collectively build on this work to lead the company into its next chapter of growth and impact,” Narasimhan said in the same press release.