Interview – Christopher De Gruben

Here Christopher provides many insights into development of the property market and Mongolia’s love affair with cars. His company, M.A.D Investment Solutions has been involved with several urban development projects in Mongolia and the drivers for the project are explored.

Christopher also shares his views on what makes Mongolia unique and presents the case for capitalising on its strengths.

Interview Transcript

Enkhzul Orgodol: Chris is an urban planner and a real estate expert. He’s been actively involved in Mongolia’s property market over the past decade. We will discuss about ups and downs of Mongolia’s property market and other type of opportunities to turn the current challenges into investable opportunities in the future.

So, Chris, welcome.

Christopher De Gruben: Thank you.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Your company, MAD, stands for “Makes A Difference”.

Christopher De Gruben: Make A Difference, yeah.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Make a Difference.

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Investment solutions claimed to be primary of several initiations in Mongolia, such as Mongolia’s first serviced apartment fund.

Christopher De Gruben: Correct.

Enkhzul Orgodol: And Mongolia’s most comprehensive construction price index.

Christopher De Gruben: Yes.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Please explain these initiatives for us.

Christopher De Gruben: So, when I first came to Mongolia, I was working for a large private sector developer in the country. And I quickly realized that if the market was to mature and improve, we had to have access to information. And so, we started MAD on the basis of providing information and improving the market.

So, we published a very large comprehensive market report that was made available freely. And then we then looked at opportunities that were outside of the normal range of what developers do in Mongolia.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Which was?

Christopher De Gruben: So, service the apartments for instance. There were no serviced apartments in the country. There was a strong need for it. And so, we started buying up the old Russian apartments, and renovating them, and then renting them out as serviced apartments.

So, today, we have 43 apartments under management and we rent them mostly on Airbnb. And it’s working out really well. So, about 70% of our bookings come from Airbnb. And so, we provide a chauffeur-driven car from the airport, we provide cleaning services, we provide breakfast coupons, we do other sorts of things.

And so, we like to look at opportunities that didn’t exist in Mongolia before instead of developing what everyone does. And we are very focused on providing services to the industry rather than providing, that being a developer basically, or being something else.

The same thing with the construction price index. So, we noticed that, again, for the market to mature, there had to be access to better information which means that foreign investors coming into the market, as well as Mongolian companies, need to better understand where construction prices are, where the seasonality is, and where prices are moving.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Is it accessible online?

Christopher De Gruben: At the moment, it’s owned by the Ministry of Construction. So, we did it for private company before the Ministry of Construction. And they will make it available online.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I see.

Christopher De Gruben: But sections of it are available online. But our real estate market data is available online. And a lot of our databases are reflected in that. So, the construction price index is summarized within that document.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I see. So, whoever is interested to find out about those index and the figures and numbers, can you just access your website

Christopher De Gruben: Yes, correct.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Okay, that’s great. Your intelligence unit made the very compelling analysis and projections on the rising demand and shortage supply of parking spaces in Ulaanbataar over the next few years. As a result, you again started another initiative called “UB Parking Fund”.

Christopher De Gruben: Yes.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Which could be seen, to me, as an impact investment initiative.

Christopher De Gruben: Correct.

Enkhzul Orgodol: How is this project progressing?

Christopher De Gruben: So, we’ve raised the first tranche of capital. And we’ve bought a bunch of parking spaces in UB. Parking in UB actually is a very simple investment for me because there’s so many cars here, there’s such a lack of parking in the city. The city is restricting more and more the parking spaces, they’re starting to charge for parking spaces. And you can see now, public spaces have been closed off so that you now need to pay for it, and so on.

So, we thought that the parking spaces within building. So, we buy parking space within existing buildings. We’ve come up at a premium. As you try to remove the supply of parking spaces on the streets, and as people get more and more cars, rationale is that the parking spaces within buildings will increase in value. And therefore, the demand for them will increase. And so, that’s what we’re doing.

The parking is also a very simple investment to manage, unlike other forms of real estate because there’s no maintenance, there’s no utility bills. It’s very, very straightforward.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Right, right. So, please help me understand a bit more on how it’s working. You said you bought some parking spaces in Ulaanbataar. Could you name some of them? And they’re all under existing buildings?

Christopher De Gruben: Yes. So, we look at the existing buildings. They all run here, actually. They only run this, the State Department Store, and the Sükhbaatar Square. And so, typically we’ll buy two or three parking spaces in the building. We go in the building, we try to find people who are selling parking spaces. And if it falls within the price criteria, then we buy them off. And often, the people who we buy them from are the people who end up being the tenants for those parking spaces.

Enkhzul Orgodol: And after that, what happens?

Christopher De Gruben: Probably in summer, we’re going to raise a second tranche of capital. And if successful, then maybe a third tranche be about building parking spaces. So, we had a vision towards building integrated above-ground parking structures.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Above-ground?

Christopher De Gruben: Which is severely lacking in UB. But this is, of course, a much, much bigger project.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Yeah.

Christopher De Gruben: So, before we get to that, we want to build some experience, we want to build some track records of knowing exactly where the price points are, of where the demand is, and how it works. And we need to prove to investors that there is a market. And so, raising small amounts of money bit by bit allows us to do this while maintaining the revenues that we need in order to build on phase three, to build one parking spot. And if it works, then we maybe build multiple.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I see. So, for the investors who’re investing in this fund, what is their turnover like? How long does it take-

Christopher De Gruben: So, the yield at the moment is about 15%. So this is annual yield, annually yield that investor’s getting. It’s a private fund. It was, in many respects, crowd funded. So, it was done through a website. And so people subscribed on the website.

And so, investors get the 15% yield at the moment. We are keeping some of the revenue to be able to reinvest back into purchasing more parking spaces because we want to drive up the capital value of the portfolio.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Do you see more foreigners investing in that fund? Or more domestic-

Christopher De Gruben: No, definitely foreigners. Domestically, we haven’t seen much interest.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Or, do you think it’s lack of awareness or?-

Christopher De Gruben: No, I think for domestic investors, it’s easy enough for them to do it themselves. If you want to buy five parking spaces, they can do so without management cost and the management fees, and so on. We present value because we aggregated everything together. And so we have efficiencies because we buy so much.

But for a domestic investor who has $50,000 to invest, he can buy two parking spaces quite easily by himself. He doesn’t need us to do it. And he can find the tenant very easily.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I think it’s very smart that you changed your model a bit because of the economic issues in Mongolia. Instead of trying to rent out apartments, which are of course much costly to most of the people, you’ve turned to parking spaces which are maybe much more essential than luxury apartments.

Christopher De Gruben: I know many Mongolians who buy a car before they buy an apartment. And-

Enkhzul Orgodol: Did you find that interesting or-

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, for me, it’s very interesting, because in Europe, it’s completely the opposite. For me, I don’t have a car. And I will only buy a car if I really, really, really need one. But my preference is always not to buy a car. If I can walk, or cycle, or take taxis, that’s what I always do.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Right. Yeah, but then, again, if you look at the other side, public transportation is not really as great as Europe for example.

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, absolutely. But even in UB, I don’t have a car. I walk everywhere.

Enkhzul Orgodol: That’s great.

Christopher De Gruben: But people-

Enkhzul Orgodol: You must have a very good located apartment, then.

Christopher De Gruben: I live upstairs.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Oh, good for you.

Christopher De Gruben: So, for me, it’s very easy. But I think the Mongolian mentality or so, this is a transition from the horse to the car. And for many young Mongolians, having a car is a status symbol. It’s a sign of wealth, which is why I know a number of Mongolians who live with their parents, often in the living room, but they will buy a $50,000 car before they buy an apartment. You can buy an apartment for $50,000. But they will buy a car instead because it’s a status symbol. It’s something they’re proud of.

And of course, you have the winter conditions, you have public transport, you have also the realities of living here. But we feel that there’s an oversupply of apartments in the market. But no one is building parking garages. So, it’s a simple supply-and-demand game.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Or very few buildings-

Christopher De Gruben: Or very few buildings, yeah. And there’s always under supplied. There’s always 30 spaces for 60 apartments.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Besides the above-ground parking lots, do you think we do have the potential of building underground parking lots as well?

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, you do. The problem is that it’s all more expensive. But, actually, UB has a lot of very good public spaces. So, you have the courtyard. So, behind here in the 40K (a district), you have other courtyards. You have Sükhbaatar Square. You have a lot of big, open spaces where you can build underground parking garages and leave a space on top so you can just rebuild the square on top of it. So, it doesn’t change anything.

So, imagine if Sükhbaatar Square was three levels of parking underground.It’d be very convenient. It’d be very easy. And it wouldn’t change Sükhbaatar Square. It would be exactly the same.

And this is what you’ve seen all over the world taking place. So, Chicago, there’s Millennium Park. All over the world, parks and public spaces have been transformed to underground car parks.

And so, it will happen in UB. It’s a question of time.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Have you mentioned this idea to anyone from the Ministry, for example

Christopher De Gruben: Yes.

Enkhzul Orgodol: You seem to have a very close connection with them

Christopher De Gruben: We talk often to the Minister and his party. The problem is there’s many agencies in Mongolia who deal with this sorts of things. So, from the chief architect’s office, to the MUB, to the Master Planning Department, to the Urban Design Institute. And so, getting everyone together, getting everyone in agreement. And then there’s a symbolic nature of a private parking space and the need for public space, like Sükhbaatar Square, then the security concerns being so close to Parliament, and so on.

So, there’s hurdles. But they can be breached. They can be resolved, that’s not the problem. The problem is finding someone who has the money and the resolve to make it happen. But we’re working with one developer at the moment who actually does want, interestingly, to build car-parking spaces to the south of Sükhbaatar Square and then connect it directly to Central Tower to Blue Sky Tower and to the Municipality through underground tunnels. Which means people could drive underneath and link directly into their office spaces without going outside.

Enkhzul Orgodol: So, that project is in discussion, is it?

Christopher De Gruben: At the moment, yes. So, we are doing the computation preparation. We’re looking at various investors to see if we could make it happen.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I really hope it will happen.

Christopher De Gruben: So do I.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Yeah. And all the best in that, and you.

Christopher De Gruben: Thank you.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Another greater impact investment opportunities lies in the suburban or ger districts of Ulaanbataar,I believe. Those who are not so familiar with UB ger districts, they’re basically districts where people live in Mongolian traditional housing, gers or yurts, and burn coals to cook and keep themselves warm. So, it’s not as exciting as it might sound, you know, ger district, yurt district because such ger districts are the main source of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar unfortunately.

But countries like the Philippines and India have solved some of their housing problems with impact investment and built large-scale, low-cost housing for their suburban population. As an expert, do you see opportunities for such project happening in UB to rebuild the suburbs?

Christopher De Gruben: Yes. There are many opportunities, but the challenges are huge. And UB has a very unique situation as compared to the Philippines and so on.

Enkhzul Orgodol: It’s cold?

Christopher De Gruben: The cold is not so much the issue.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Okay.

Christopher De Gruben: The one issue is the land rights. So, UB is maybe one of the only capital where the poorest people of the city are the land owners. In every other capital city in the world, or just about, is the richest people who are the land owners, and the poorest people are squatters. They have no land rights, no land tenure.

In UB, actually everyone in ger districts has a land right. So, they have rights of possessions, of ownership, or they have a free-hold right to the lands. And every Mongolian, as you know, has a free right to land as a birth right.

Enkhzul Orgodol: True.

Christopher De Gruben: Which means the ger districts are getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Now, because of this, you have very low density. So, if you look at the low-income areas of Mumbai, of Manila, of Chinese cities and so on, they’re very dense. Lots of people sleeping on top of each other and living on top of each other. Right?

UB’s extremely spread out, very low density. Which means it’s impossible to provide urban infrastructure to those people. You can’t provide the buses, the heating, the water, the electricity and so on to such a low density for people who can’t afford it. Because the cost of doing so it huge.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Exactly.

Christopher De Gruben: You can provide this infrastructure in the U.S. suburban setting where the average home pays $15,000 a year in taxes. You can’t do it in UB where people pay no taxes. So, the cost of building that infrastructure would be in the billions of dollars. And the city just can’t do it.

And it’s not just the physical infrastructure, it’s also the schools, the hospitals, the buses, all those sorts of things. It’s too expensive to do. So, the solution is to densify. You need to bring people closer together, and then it’s affordable to to build infrastructure for those sub-centers.

In terms of providing affordable housing, so, I work on ADB and World Bank projects in the ger districts. And those two projects in particular that I’m working on at the moment for the ADB. One is ger development investment program that invest in infrastructure in the sub-centers of UB. So, we’re working on two sub-centers at the moment, Bayankhoshuu and Selbe. And the other one is affordable housing and urban renewal project, which we built human-centric affordable housing for residents of the ger districts.

Enkhzul Orgodol: What do mean by human-centric?

Christopher De Gruben: So, a lot of the affordable housing projects that have happened so far by GADIP, by GAP, by all of the state agencies, they build single-use high-rise towers, right?

Enkhzul Orgodol: Okay.

Christopher De Gruben: And this is a model that has been proven the world over not to work from a social perspective. People lose touch with their identity. You have a rise in vandalism, and so on. What works is something that’s called human-centric. So, it’s human-focused development. It’s about scale.

So, instead of building high-rise towers with lots of emptiness around it, what we’re trying to do is build mid-rise townhouses so people still have an attachment to man, they still have a garden, they still have low-rise cities. And so, you have-

Enkhzul Orgodol: Better school and a hospital.

Christopher De Gruben: That’s right. And you create communities. And you create meeting spaces or you create green spaces, and so on. So, it’s creating more a village feel rather than a megapolis feel.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Is it in the stage of conceptualization? Or-

Christopher De Gruben: No. So, we’re finishing the feasibility study of the affordable housing in March, April. And then it will go to the Parliament to be discussed. And hopefully we can start construction 2018.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Okay-

Christopher De Gruben: It all depends, once we’ve finished our mission, then it depends on the Mongolian Parliament and the ADB to push it through. Which can be very quick. It can also take a long time.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Yeah. Well, I hope the Mongolian Parliament will be looking into those kind of innovative solutions. Otherwise I mean, the people have been quite angry and upset with the social and environmental problems-

Christopher De Gruben: And it’s understandable. I mean, it’s a very difficult choice. I work a lot in the ger district. And people there realize that burning coal is bad for their families, it’s bad for everyone, but they have no choice. They need to heat themselves. So, it’s a very difficult situation.

Enkhzul Orgodol: But is someone who’s lived in Mongolia for a decade-

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah

Enkhzul Orgodol: -and also have been involved in different economy sectors of the country, which kind of opportunities do you see in the countryside in terms of building up more business-like environment there and at the same time, helping the gers sustainable livelihood.

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah. I mean, the two big of course are agriculture and tourism. Mongolia is extraordinarily beautiful, it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The problem is how it markets itself. It’s too expensive for low-income tourists, and it’s too difficult. And you don’t have the infrastructure for the high-income tourists.

Say, if you look at African countries that also have sort of beautiful nature, and so on, they’ve marked themselves on very high-income tourism — so, Tanzania, Kenya, and so on — with extremely good luxury-tented camps. The whole glamping movement and so on.

And I think Mongolia needs to go into that direction. But in order to be able to do so, it needs to build infrastructure. A tourist who pays $2,000 a day, is not going to sit in a minivan going over bumpy roads for five hours a day. And so, there needs to be an infrastructure built on that

But there also is a huge market for the nomads to start welcoming tourists into their lifestyles and so on. And this is destination tourism. Is a huge opportunity that is not being exploited at the moment. There’s a few small companies that are trying to do it. And I think the Ministry of Tourism needs to be a better job of supporting those sorts of initiatives.

And then, agricultural business. I think the opportunity actually lies in letting Korean and Japanese companies come and do agricultural projects in Mongolia. There’s a common misconception in Mongolia that if you do longterm leasing of land, or even selling of land to Japanese, or Korean, or Chinese companies that mean you’re losing that land. And I think that’s nonsense because our land is still in Mongolia.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Exactly.

Christopher De Gruben: They can’t take it away back to Japan or Korea. And the Mongolian government is here to regulate. So, you can tax it, you can derive revenues from it, you can do all sorts of things.

The Japanese really need grazing lands. So do the Koreans because they have overpopulation, they have issues there. And it will come at no cost to Mongolia. And it would create jobs. It will create benefits. But importantly, it will create skill transfers, because they will employ Mongolians on their farms that those Mongolians would then get set at their own farms and become competitors.

And-

Enkhzul Orgodol: But however, do you see the relatively long, lengthy cold season in Mongolia, a problem in doing such kind of agriculture projects?

Christopher De Gruben: It used to be. No longer. Now that you have hydroponic agriculture, you have so many new types of innovative agriculture that you can do. It’s becoming less and less of a problem. And bear in mind, during the Soviet period, Mongolia was a net exporter of wheat to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was far bigger agriculturally than it is today. Today, we have 20% of agriculture we had at that time. Now, the Soviet Union agriculture wasn’t particularly sustainable or wasn’t particularly good quality. But there is a market for doing this. And bear in mind that the world over, people associate Mongolia with the steppes. If you ask anyone in the world what is Mongolia, they imagine the steppes.

And you have restaurants the world over that sell Mongolian beef. That’s not actually Mongolian, it’s from inner Mongolia. But there is a perception of good-quality beef. And I think there’s a niche market for Mongolia to go into very high-quality beef, like wagyu beef, or kobe beef, or something like that, that can then be sold over in Asia to Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporeans, and so on.

Because the branding is already there. Now, it’s just a case of creating the product. And there’s a number of opportunities like this that I think Mongolia could actually do fairly easily.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Besides your real estate business, have you been involved or have you had deeper research on this kind of economic opportunities you just mentioned besides your real estate.

Christopher De Gruben: No. I mean, we really, really focus on real estate. Everything else often comes as a result of the real estate. Because if you’re looking at the urban areas, you also need to look at what drives economically and how the economy as a whole functions. So, I’m very interested in macro elements.

And we have advised sort of different agencies on opportunities in Mongolia. The problem is not so much the opportunity here. The problem is the size of the markets and the regulatory environment. Those are the two big issues that investors face.

So, the opportunities are there. And there are good Mongolians on the ground that can actually make them happen. The problem is simply the government often gets in the way and is very difficult to deal with Mongolian government for such a small market. There are other countries where the government is equally difficult to deal with. China is notoriously very, very difficult to deal with. But at least the market is much bigger.

Mongolia is a very limited market. And there’s three million people, of which only 1.5 live city, of which how many can afford any kind of product.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Due to exactly the reason you just said about the relatively small size, not relatively small size of the market, however relatively big land-

Christopher De Gruben: Land mass, yeah.

Enkhzul Orgodol: -and land mass, do you think Mongolia has more opportunities for becoming springboard to other countries like China or Japan and Korea, you just mentioned, is they’re trying to attack investors who would do business that targeted for Mongolians.

Christopher De Gruben: So, I think actually Mongolia, being such a large land mass in a geographic area that has so many high-density countries and so many countries that are growing in terms of economy, presents enormous opportunities. And Mongolia rightly or wrongly — I mean, there’s debates on both sides — is very much against letting foreigners in for a number of reasons.

Of course, the Chinese, there’s a fear of being invaded and becoming a Chinese country of sorts. And those fears are of course founded. But I think there’s a middle ground that can be found between the current xenophobia of we’re afraid of foreigners, so we’ll make life very difficult, to actually benefiting from the potential and investment that it brings. The land mass that you have here is an enormous godsend that Mongolia has. And beyond the mining, I think it is what’s going to prove the fortune of Mongolia over the longterm.

Of course, there’s huge mining opportunities in the country. But the land mass is also a big issue because it means everything is difficult and everything is far. UB is a city-state in effect. But if you want to go anywhere, if you want to create any kind of business for secondary cities, it is just so far, it’s extremely hard to do.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I’d like to ask you a couple of questions on your personal journey. Back in 2012, in your interview for a local newspaper, UB Post I believe, it’s exciting fun and the best possible business school in the world.

Christopher De Gruben: Yes.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I know the positivity, but can you still say so after five years?

Christopher De Gruben: It still is the best business school in the world because we’ve seen both the good times and the very bad times. And so, for example, for my business, it’s forced us to completely change, and adapt, and be flexible. And so, the business lessons you learn in Mongolia are very, very concrete. They’re very good. And they’re probably much more down to Earth than the experiences you will have in any other country.

The things I’ve learned in Mongolia is the power of relationships and the power of being practical, and being very pragmatic about what you do, and always looking at what can go wrong.

Enkhzul Orgodol: So, this type of scenario planning, you have to plan-

Christopher De Gruben: Yes, absolutely.

Enkhzul Orgodol: -for scenarios.

Christopher De Gruben: Absolutely.

Enkhzul Orgodol: What if this happens? What if that happens? Yeah, I think that sounds like a very good lesson for you, right?

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, but at the same time, Mongolia is actually quite unique in the fact that it is virtually easy to start an adventure. If I was working in the U.K. or in most Asian countries, it’d be very difficult for us to do new product lines, new markets, and so on because there’d be so much regulation, there’d be so much red tape. And it’s such a competitive industry.

Here, if we have an idea, we can start on this idea next week and see if it works at relatively low cost. And if it doesn’t work, we can shelve it and try something else. And Mongolia’s quite unique in this. And that’s why you have such an entrepreneurial culture.

Mongolia, for me — I’ve traveled all over Asia — is very unique in how many entrepreneurs it has. Mongolians are by nature extremely entrepreneurial, which is a problem as well as a negative. It’s a problem for people like me because when we have good employees, they stay with us one year and two years and then they want to go and compete. And the dream of every Mongolian is to have their own business, I think. Or, that’s how I see it.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Partly true, I think

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, and whereas if you go to China, if you go to Japan, if you go to Korea, the dream for them is to work for a company for the rest of their lives and to be a salary man, right? And so, Mongolians have this great entrepreneurial spirit where they want to try everything, they want to do everything, and so on.

Enkhzul Orgodol: What else do you think the government should do in the next few years? Because they just formed about half a year ago, and they I think are really trying hard to lift the economy up. How much do you think they will be able to accomplish here over the next few years?

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah, so the biggest problem of the government is — I mean, it’s a vicious circle. It’s a very different institution they’re in because what investors what is stability. The best way to prove stability is over time. You can’t prove stability over six months.

So, we’ll see in a year or two if the government is stable. The key thing for the current government is to maintain its promises and to stay on message. One of the key challenges from the previous government was that there were so many conflicting messages. So, constantly there were ministers, and members of Parliament, and so on that were saying certain things in the press. And they were all fighting amongst each other, and so there was no unity in the government.

Today, with MPP controlling the Parliament, controlling municipality and probably soon controlling the presidency, they will have all the tools necessary to have stability and to have a single message. And I think that’s what’s very important. For example, today, there’s a lot of uncertainty about will Mongolia be able to meet its March payment on the Chinggis Bonds. Will the IMF come in and so on? And even in the March payment, the Minister of Finance is saying one thing, the Parliament are saying another thing. And so, we need to have clarity in what is going on.

And in most other countries, you have a clear chain of command. And so, you have a spokesperson from the government who says where the government position is. Other ministers and parliament members are not really allowed to talk publicly about affairs of state. And I think this is something that needs to be slightly improved on Mongolia.

I’m actually quite impressed so far with the current government. They’ve inherited from a very, very difficult situation. It hasn’t crashed yet, which it’s a positive. It’s a good sign because we were heading towards a massive crash. And they’re trying their best to improve the situation while maintaining their political promises, which is not always so straightforward. So, we’ll see if they’re able to do it. I’m confident. I’m confident.

Enkhzul Orgodol: When you said five years ago that you came to Mongolia to build a career, do you think you’ve already reached that goal and what your needs and longterm goals in your business life. How are they related to Mongolia?

Christopher De Gruben: I’ve learned an enormous amount. Not just from a business perspective, but mostly from the marker perspective. So, we become valuers, we become planners, we become market research specialists. And we’ve realized that we have product, which actually, from an Asian-market perspective, are quite unique and very good.

Or capacity to integrate together the investment side the research side, the urban planning and evaluation, all together into one core team. It’s something that’s quite unique here. So, we think there’s a market for this in other Central Asian countries, as well as Northern Asian and so what we want to do is expand our business. Mongolia is a relatively small market, as I’ve mentioned before. And so, for us to keep growing, I think we have to grown outside of Mongolia. So, when we tame our base-

Enkhzul Orgodol: So, you want to duplicate your business in Mongolia and implemented elsewhere? Okay.

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah. We’ve set our base in Mongolia. But I think there’s a number of central Asian countries in particular that have gone through the same transition than Mongolia, and had the same problems that we can probably enter in and provide some good services. And it is those countries where the big companies don’t want to go into because they’re too complicated because they’re too expensive, and they’re too small of a market. Where we had a competitive advantage to be able to take our lessons from Mongolia, and go and apply to other countries.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Yeah, that’s sounds like a very good plan.

Christopher De Gruben: We’ll see if it happens, yeah.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Yeah. Which countries are you looking at, at the moment? Or it’s still in your mid-term plan-

Christopher De Gruben: So, it’s still mid-term. But we’re looking sort of at Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, those sorts of central Asian countries.

Enkhzul Orgodol: I see. Okay, Chris, very, very extremely interesting discussion. I think thank you very much and that-

Christopher De Gruben: A pleasure.

Enkhzul Orgodol: -I just want to briefly explain about the project-

Christopher De Gruben: Yeah.

Enkhzul Orgodol: -again to let the views and yourself as well. So, this project, Doing Business in Mongolia is a content strategy project which will produce four main outcomes in ebook, business guide book that will be mostly based on the kind of discussions we’re having from these 12 business leaders we’ve chosen. And also, of course, there’s YouTube videos that original media series we’re also going to launch a website on this project, Doing Business in Mongolia, so people care visit them any time, even after the videos is the e-book. And we’re also planning to organize a forum in the summer when the sun is up and the weather is warm for anyone who’s interested in that, explore more businesses opportunities in Mongolia. So, of course, if you are in Mongolia, please join us-

Christopher De Gruben: I’d love to.

Enkhzul Orgodol: – there in the forum. And I would, I would also like to encourage my leaders to sign up in the link, under the description in this video to receive the free copy of the Business Guide Book we’re providing. And we hope that you will be able to share some of the market insights with us with so that we can include some of that in your book.

Christopher De Gruben: Of course. Happy to.

Enkhzul Orgodol: Okay. Okay, thank you very much.

Christopher De Gruben: Thank you, very much. Thank you.

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