EBRD and EU help English language franchise grow in Mongolia and beyond

By Altjin Munkhbat

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In Mongolia, English is an essential language for anyone hoping to travel, study or conduct business internationally. And while many Mongolians have an acceptable knowledge of day-to-day English, the proficiency essential for business has been and still is a relatively rare commodity.

The situation changed in 2019 with the opening of the local franchise of the international Wall Street English (WSE) institute – a business English language service known for its classroom customisation and highly effective learning experience.

With support from the European Union, the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme has helped the WSE Mongolia to grow its brand name beyond the country, with a new school set to open in Kazakhstan.

An English service for Mongolians

The story of WSE Mongolia begins with Purevdash Jalbuu, its CEO. Realising the exponentially growing demand for high quality professional English interpretation for Mongolian businesspeople, Purevdash sought opportunities to establish a language teaching service that fit their requirements. After researching and comparing many franchising opportunities, he found his solution in the WSE.

While the WSE was hesitant to extend their franchise into Mongolia at first, it soon became a success. What was described an “ambitious” annual target of enrolling 476 professionals into the English course was met in mere months, with more than 800 students enrolled in the first year of the franchise.

The second year was just as successful, with another 800 students enrolled, demonstrating that Mongolian entrepreneurs and professionals have been longing for the kind of student-oriented and highly customisable learning opportunities that WSE provides.

Bringing the Mongolian miracle to Kazakhstan

However, in order to obtain the franchising rights for Mongolia, Purevdash had to commit to another, seemingly more promising franchise market: Kazakhstan. And despite his franchising success in Mongolia, he was obliged to fulfil his franchising commitment and open a WSE institute in the Central Asian country.

The EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded by the EU, supported Purevdash in his quest to deliver a high quality English learning experience to the people of Kazakhstan. Through the programme, he was able to understand the Kazakh market and its English learners, identifying the optimal location for the school’s first branch in Almaty. Purevdash also learned that English learners in the two countries were very much alike. They preferred physical classrooms, custom times and more focused attention from the teachers.

“While my team were excited yet apprehensive to launch our first Kazakhstan branch, we immediately faced fresh challenges. Everything from finding an office space, meeting customer expectations and methods of training to launching an advocacy campaign for our service has faced difficulties one way or another. But thanks to the EBRD’s advisory service, we managed to make our launch into a new country’s market a success,” says Purevdash.

A surprising benefit

Using the knowledge gained from studying the Kazakhstan market with the help of the consultancy team, Purevdash resumed working on improving the business in his hometown of Ulaanbaatar.

“With our number of students, the first Ulaanbaatar branch ranked first in the world among all the WSE franchises for the past three years. To keep up with the growing demand and develop our business further, we opened a second branch in Ulaanbaatar. This would not have been possible without the support of the EBRD,” he concludes.

Now, several Mongolian ministries as well as major national corporations located in the country have partnered with the WSE to train their professionals.

The future is bright

WSE Mongolia is a remarkable example of collaboration between the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses team and a local business. While the Bank has been a catalyst for the company to break into a new market, the initiative shown by the business leaders created new opportunities for optimisation and expansion beyond its home market.

In October 2022, the people of Kazakhstan will see the first ever branch of WSE opening in their country to provide English learning opportunities for working professionals and business owners who wish to learn and expand into the international market. 

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