Mongolian nomads are renowned for their functional, fashionable and durable leathercraft.
However, a significant issue in Mongolia is the wastage of unprocessed animal leather hides, with tons discarded annually. Leather processing is a challenging and hazardous endeavour, leading many entrepreneurs to opt for the more profitable and readily accessible cashmere market.
Each year, Mongolia semi-processes approximately 7 million leather hides, and a striking 90% of these are exported to Italy, Spain, and Turkey at notably low prices. The excess 7-8 million hides end up in the growing landfills of the country, as reported by the EBRD press service.
In response to this wastage, Mongolian leather professional Enkhnasan Tumen-Ulzii established her brand, Maris, in 2016, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and green technology. Their ground-breaking adoption of 'vegetable tanning processing' eliminated the need for many hazardous chemicals previously required for leather processing.
Maris, initially concentrated on leather handbags, underwent a rapid transformation, evolving into Maris Trade LLC in 2019. As the company expanded, so did the imperative to enhance product development, production, marketing, and sales. Faced with a pivotal moment, the company's leadership sought professional guidance and enrolled in the EBRD's highly competitive bundled consultancy programme.
This business advisory service meticulously scrutinized Maris's operations and prompted the integration of the internationally recognized ISO 9001:2015 quality management system into the company's procedures.
The far-reaching reforms supported by the consultancy service culminated in a remarkable increase in Maris's sales through production enhancements and rejuvenation.
Crucially, the company achieved a substantial reduction in waste by implementing an early detection system for flawed animal hides and innovatively utilising smaller segments of usable material to craft new accessories, including mousepads, card holders, and various utilities. This approach not only revitalized the company but also established a trend among Mongolian youth, who now favour purchasing these durable and stylish leather accessories.
"I started Maris because I wished to reduce the leather waste in my community. With the help of the advisory service, we can now repurpose large amounts of raw leather that would previously have become waste," says Enkhnasan.
Comparatively, Maris's sales have surged by an impressive 70% since 2021. Furthermore, with the successful implementation of the management system, the company is now well-equipped to export its products internationally. In an exciting development, Maris has even designed a prototype rugby ball for their new Japanese partners, and it is poised to send test products to European countries.