Anand Kurian
Guest Article

Marketing theorist Anand Kurian on 'The entry of Multinational Nuclear Families'

Or MNFS, as he calls them. But what does this mean for marketing communications professionals?

It is 6 am in the morning in Singapore - the sun has barely risen but the alarm, in all its rudeness, has jogged me awake. It will be a full two and half hours later when my son's alarm rings in Mumbai. Far across the globe, in Cambridge, my daughter's day will begin many hours later. My wife, who is at Bristol, will begin her day along with my daughter.

Marketing theorist Anand Kurian on 'The entry of Multinational Nuclear Families'
The family is separated by continents and oceans and time itself. Three clocks run in my head simultaneously. Without thinking for a moment I can tell you, accurate to the minute, the time in Singapore, India and England. I can tell you which airways offer the best fare, in terms of tickets, and the best fare, in terms of food.

Just as a Multinational Corporation (a MNC) has operations in different countries, a Multinational Nuclear Family or MNF (a name I coined at a conference recently), has different members living and working in different countries. And the numbers of our tribe are growing. Chiefly because, unlike in the early years, the Multinational Family can stay connected as never before. My uncle, who left for America to do his PhD in the 1960s, would write home once a month. Phone calls were rare, since it was too expensive. Today, my wife, children and I use Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and Gmail to connect with each other every hour. Staying interconnected is now possible, practical and priced right.

And every time we connect with each other, we draw from each other's lives and spread the culture virus across the globe; we help to make culture contagious.

I can speak Singlish after a fashion, with my friends and colleagues here in Singapore. When I am in doubt, I add a 'La!' to everything I say and my friends smile and indulge me, making me feel Singaporean. My son studied overseas and returned to the city of his roots, Mumbai. He must re-learn the art of being Indian - the art of shaking and nodding his head at the same time, with no apparent contradiction. After the warmth of Mumbai and Singapore, my daughter and my wife find England cold and wet, but they find the English grocer's cheery 'Thank you, love' truly endearing.

I see a day, not very far off, when the London grocer will say, "Thank you, love, la!" in Singaporean fashion and then proceed to nod and shake her head, in the Indian way. And it is families like mine, the Multinational Families, which will have helped, in their own small way, to make it happen.

What does all this mean for marketing and marketing communications professionals? MNFS are just a trickle today but will gather strength in time to come. Marketing boundaries will change and segmentation will become even more of a challenge than it is today.

Marketing communications professionals will have to learn the new world lingo, the new world culture and the new world mores.

That is some time away yet. But sometimes, as I sit on my terrace in Singapore, and think of my wife and my children spread all over the world, it feels good to know that my family is a forerunner of a new generation.

('Alby' Anand Kurian is consultant and module leader, marketing and strategy, Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). His book 'Reality Plus: The Neo World You Live And Work In' is scheduled for publication in December 2016)