Mongolia's Leather Gets Sustainable Boost from EBRD
Central Asian nomads are celebrated for their skill in crafting leather, which is known for its functionality, style, and resilience.
Nevertheless, Mongolia witnesses the wasteful disposal of tonnes of untreated animal hides. Given the challenging and hazardous nature of leather processing, many entrepreneurs opt for the more profitable and easily accessible cashmere trade.
Each year, Mongolia semi-processes approximately 7 million hides, with a staggering 90 per cent of these being exported to Italy, Spain, and Turkey at low prices. The surplus 7-8 million hides are left to accumulate in the country's ever-growing landfills.
Ms. Enkhnasan Tumen-Ulzii, a Mongolian leather expert, set out to reduce the volume of discarded animal hides. In 2016, she founded her brand, Maris, with a strong focus on sustainability and green technology. Their innovative "vegetable tanning processing" method eliminated the need for many hazardous chemicals traditionally used in leather production.
Initially centred on leather handbags, Maris's brand swiftly evolved into Maris Trade LLC in 2019. However, as the company expanded, so did the need for enhancement in product development, production, marketing, and sales. At a critical juncture, the company's leadership sought professional guidance and enrolled in the EBRD's highly competitive bundled consultancy programme.
This business advisory service meticulously scrutinised Maris's operations and promptly took on the task of introducing the internationally recognised ISO 9001:2015 quality management system into the company's procedures.
"Our shortcomings became evident with the assistance of the consultants. Despite Maris's growth, we were still functioning like a small-scale business with minimal strategic oversight and planning," explained Enkhnasan.
With significant improvements guided by the consulting service, Maris reinvigorated its sales by revamping and enhancing its production processes. They notably reduced waste by implementing an early detection system for defective animal hides and began utilising smaller usable pieces of material to craft new items like mousepads, cardholders, and various other accessories. The company made a remarkable comeback, and today, it has become a trend among the youth in Mongolia to purchase their durable and stylish leather accessories.
"I founded Maris to reduce leather waste in my community. Thanks to the advisory service, we can now repurpose significant quantities of raw leather that would have previously gone to waste," expressed Enkhnasan enthusiastically. "Customers are also delighted as we introduce new leather accessories that were previously unavailable in the domestic market," she added.
In comparison to 2021, Maris has seen a nearly 70 per cent increase in sales. With the successful implementation of the management system, the company is now equipped to export its products internationally and has even designed a prototype rugby ball for their new Japanese partners. They are now preparing to test their products in European markets.
Today, Maris serves as an inspiration to numerous leather producers in Mongolia. Not only does their business set an example for their industry peers, but small and medium-sized businesses from various sectors are now eager to participate in the EBRD's Advice for Small Businesses programme to enhance their efficiency and overall business operations.