EBRD and EU help Mongolian small business to export
Lung-supporting, immune-system-boosting black radish teas and dried nettle leaf powder are staples in the trolleys of shoppers and on kitchen counters in homes in Mongolia.
These are just some examples of the many health-supporting products made under the ‘Dr Baatar’ brand by Otoch Odi LLC, a private hospital providing both Western and Mongolian traditional medicine and treatments.
Medical Doctor Baatar, also a ninth generation traditional medicine healer from the Gobi region, founded the hospital in 2002 and its pharmaceutical factory later in 2015.
As a business dealing with human health, Otoch Odi makes research-based decisions and is particularly mindful of the quality and sustainability of their raw materials.
To preserve the strain of the medical plants, they avoid using harmful chemicals on their plantation and employ a solar watering system. Furthermore, the team continuously experiments in domesticating plants new to Mongolia such as wasabi and saffron.
While many small businesses are suffering due to the Covid-19 crisis, for enterprises whose main operations supplement the standards of the new normal, business is booming. This is the case for Otoch Odi.
However, it is important to have the right advice in place to be well prepared to respond. The EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses Programme, which in Mongolia is funded by the European Union, provides hands-on support.
When Ms Chantsaldulam Baatar, the CEO of the pharmaceutical factory, first approached the EBRD back in 2017, the company was manufacturing traditional health products mainly to supply its own hospital. Yet to achieve its ambitious goal of contributing to the wellbeing of every Mongolian, the Otoch Odi team needed professional help.
Through the EBRD’s advisory project, they were introduced to local experts who designed a new marketing strategy to raise product awareness among potential customers, both domestic and international.
Traditional medicine and health products are sought after by the elderly population, while the younger and wider population are unaccustomed to them. Hence, the consultant suggested they re-brand and develop new products. Six months of work yielded a fresh image and concept, and 30 new products with attractive packaging accentuating the beautiful culture and nature of Mongolia through traditional design motifs.
Ranging from preventative and health-supporting products to natural cosmetics, Dr Baatar’s goods are sold in most supermarkets and retail stores, not just in pharmacies. Moreover, the consultant’s research on export potential and promotional schemes helped them stand out in the global market. Otoch Odi is now exporting its products to China, Japan, South Korea and European countries. With the US Food and Drug Administration approval on 100 per cent organic certification, their products are now available in the US market, including on Amazon.
When Covid-19 started spreading in January this year, Otoch Odi swiftly responded to the world health emergency by manufacturing hand sanitisers and natural antibacterial liquid soaps. As the company harvests its main raw materials in Mongolia, they did not face major supply interruptions due to Covid-19.
With the lessons learnt from the EBRD’s selected experts, they re-calibrated production to meet market needs, doubling their turnover. Ms Chantsaldulam notes: “We were able to overcome this crisis thanks to the EBRD’s advisory project as it minimised existing risks and prepared us for future challenges so that we are ready to address and adjust to the rapidly changing market needs.”
For small businesses like Otoch Odi, the joint support of the EBRD and the EU is crucial in finding the right professionals who pass on tailored know-how to help them succeed. This is especially important in current crisis, during which many SMEs around the world must find ways to adapt.