Captain CP Krishnan Nair, founder and chairman emeritus of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, passed away in Mumbai on Saturday following a brief illness.
Nair, 92, is survived by his wife Leela, their sons — chairman and managing director, Vivek Nair, and co-chairman and managing director, Dinesh Nair, and their wives and children.
From a young freedom fighter to an officer of the Indian Army, to pioneering the globalisation of India’s textiles industries, and later being a leader of India’s hospitality industry and one of the leading luxury hotel groups, Nair put an indelible mark in different spheres of life.
Born on February 9, 1922 in Kannur, Kerala, Nair joined the freedom movement at the age of 14 when he became an aide of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and came into close contact with Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel.
Nair volunteered for the Indian army and rose to rank of a Captain in the Maratha Light Infantry. Giants such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, and VP Menon, architects of the transition from British rule to Indian democracy, befriended him. In 1951, he resigned his commission to secure the formation of the All India Handloom Board for modernisation and promotion of handloom textiles.
He was instrumental in inventing the “Bleeding Madras” fabric which helped place Indian fabrics on the global map and catapulted the growth and exports of the Indian textile industry. His textile company, Leela Scottish Lace, became one of the most prosperous enterprises of its kind in the country.
His frequent business trips to Europe and America exposed him to international hotel chains which reflected the highest standards of guest services, inspiring him to make his first foray into the hospitality sector. At the age of 65, he started to build The Leela group of hotels which today has become one of India’s leading luxury hospitality groups.
He set up the first Leela hotel in Mumbai in 1986 and signed a marketing alliance with Kempinski of Germany. Today, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts has eight luxury properties across the country.