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Strengthening SMEs and introducing digital marketing in Mongolia

Posted: 28 July 2020

Throughout the world, Australia Awards alumni make positive changes in a variety of markets and sectors. One Mongolian alumna who should be highlighted is Sarantuya Baasankhuu – who is contributing to improving digital marketing options for Mongolian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). In Mongolia, SMEs make up 98 per cent of all enterprises, and they face many obstacles to unlocking their full potential, including access finance and digital marketing systems.

Developing a new and better SME structure and marketing strategy is one way of helping SMEs fully utilise their potential and to better market their products both domestically and internationally. Currently Sarantuya, through her mentoring program, is using her Australia Awards experiences to directly mentor business owners of Mongolian public and private SMEs including Booklo – online bookstore, Ur Mine –  kids cashmere, Huugiin Gutal – male handmade leather shoes, and Torhondoi – wooden barrels.

In Australia, she studied a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Monash University through her Australia Awards Scholarship – a two-year study program involving experience-based modules, consulting projects, and overseas learning and industry engagement opportunities. In addition to building her management knowledge and skills through the degree, Sarantuya’s exposure to company management practices was enhanced during a 2018 visit to Germany with mentors at the Amazon Fulfillment Center. There she experienced how Amazon manages product shipment in the European market. Sarantuya then travelled to South Korea where she engaged with mentors on Samsung’s product development strategy and branding; and finally, she visited Shanghai where mentors in the WeChat development and e-commerce team shared their experiences with her. Each of these overseas learning and industry engagement opportunities were organised by the Monash University MBA teaching team in 2018. The MBA program at Monash University was transformative for Sarantuya through providing hands-on learning experiences:

‘It was really practical after learning the theories. We were divided into groups and started applying the knowledge on real business cases. We provided consulting services to clients and that was how we got assessed during our MBA Program’.

As a result, Sarantuya developed analytical skills, as well as effective team collaboration and problem-solving skills, which are essential in her current consultancy work.

Leveraging her increasing knowledge and part-time work experience at the Ibis Melbourne Hotel during her Australia Awards Scholarship, Sarantuya wanted to convey the quality and standard of Australian customer service practice into Mongolia on her return home. She set up her own customer-centric call center company – SABA Service Excellence – in 2018. This company aims to improve Mongolian service quality and provide call center services such as daily operations outsourcing, setting up sales and service channels, and building customer relationships. Since early 2019, SABA provides contact center outsourcing services to Tavan Tolgoi Tulsh LLC- /briquette/, Amar Insurance and service excellence consultancy services to Akuma Erin LLC, Son Medical Hospital Ulaanbataar, and Trans Capital NFI.

Sarantuya also participated in the Australia Awards-Mongolia – Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) during 2019, after establishing her company. Through this leadership program, she gained a deeper understanding of the benefits of inclusiveness of marginalised groups and specific attributes of women’s leadership which have changed her own perceptions. This piqued her interest in employing people from marginalised groups at SABA Service Excellence. Additionally, the WLP in-Australia component offered mentorship to participants, and Sarantuya utilised this opportunity to acquire advice from Australian mentors on start-up investment – including seeking capital injections for SABA Service Excellence. She commented that her

‘MBA program taught me how to develop business modelling, while Australian mentors through the WLP advised me on attracting capital investment. The  Australia Awards have contributed a lot to my career and business’.

Through SABA, Sarantuya focuses on employing university students, people with disabilities, early pensioners in their 50s, and mothers on unpaid maternity leave – aiming to provide support via an on-going income source through enabling employees to access work-from-home. This has been demonstrated as best practice for SMEs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Sarantuya has helped SABA employees to keep a stable income, as well as to improve customer relationships in implementing digital marketing for many Mongolian SMEs, rather than via the more traditional face-to-face method.

This aim was part of Sarantuya’s initial Reintegration Plan (a requirement for an Australia Awards Scholarship application, that focuses on the applicant articulating a plan that will contribute to Mongolia’s ongoing development and is to be implemented in-Mongolia upon graduation from Australian university) when she first applied for an Australia Awards Scholarship. Sarantuya has been fully implementing her plan and continues to share her knowledge and experiences with Mongolian SME owners/ operators, with a strong focus on inclusion of staff from marginalised groups.