Digital payment solutions driving growth for women-run businesses in Mongolia
Christina Margaret Morrison
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises play an essential role in Mongolia’s economy, contributing to about 72 per cent of employment. However, women, particularly those in rural areas, have limited participation in formal entrepreneurial activities and lack access to the digital and financial services needed to grow their businesses.
Founded in 2017, Mongolian tech company Gerege Systems, which specializes in payment technology platforms, seeks to overcome these constraints. The company’s latest product is a smart Payment Operating System (POS) specifically designed for micro entrepreneurs, with a system to register their revenues and expenditures.
“The product is a simple banking POS, but it has a cashier system which enables small traders to easily access and control their finances. Through the digital technology they can have a better overview of their businesses,” explains Enkhjargal Natsagdorj, CEO and co-founder of the company.
Recently, with support from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Gerege has been able to extend the benefits of their product to small business owners in rural areas, where digitalization and access to financial services is low.
“Thanks to the grant from ESCAP, we were able to sponsor POS equipment for 50 rural women who own small shops. Through our products, they have been able to swap their notebooks for automatic financial balance sheets, enabling them to digitally track revenues and expenditure,” explained Natsagdorj.
According to Natsagdorj, banks have started to show an interest in the product and are keen to provide credit through the POS. “The support has had a good multiplication effect, enabling us to bring technology to those who really need it the most, in particular women in remote areas who are excluded from these kinds of services,” she explained. “I hope that with this product, we can positively impact the livelihoods of women operating in the countryside.”
Similarly, for Mongolian digital health care start-up and fellow ESCAP grantee, eClinic, which seeks to contribute to the reduction of health inequality by simplifying access to quality healthcare, this support has enabled the company to deepen their social impact. With support from ESCAP, the company has been able to onboard small retail pharmacy owners and supply companies.
According to eClinic’s CEO, Bolormaa Tumendemberel, “this provided us with an opportunity to develop our ecosystem and open up additional revenue channels for women entrepreneurs who are engaged in the healthcare industry, and improve access, quality and continuity of care, particularly for the rural population of Mongolia.”
She noted that “these women entrepreneurs have been provided an opportunity to accelerate their adoption of digital technology, which is particularly important in the post-COVID-19 environment, when they need to strengthen their business resilience. In addition, we have been able to empower 72 women entrepreneurs through digital skills training, which contributes to reduction of gender inequality and supports their inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”
Gerege and eClinic are among seven challenge fund beneficiaries awarded a grant through ESCAP’s Women Enterprise Recovery Fund, launched in February 2023 in partnership with the International Women’s Federation of Commerce and Industry in Mongolia and the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The innovative business models supported under the fund provide digital solutions that address the challenges faced by women-owned businesses in Mongolia, aiding their recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, and promoting growth and resilience. The fund winners were awarded up to US$ 10,000 to improve access to finance and business development services for women-led micro and small enterprises nationwide.
ESCAP draws on the expertise and experience gained in supporting women entrepreneurs through the Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) programme, implemented in partnership with the Government of Canada. To date, the programme has invested in 15 start-ups in the region through challenge funds to promote the development of digital and innovative projects and solutions aimed at women-owned businesses in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam. To date, the programme has directly supported 176,000 women entrepreneurs through enhanced access to finance and digital skills and unlocked 89.7 million in capital for women entrepreneurs.