SC&T Office Spotlight: Ulaanbaatar

We continue our Office Spotlight series by jetting over to a landlocked country on the Central Asian plateau.

Around an hour by car from Chinggis Khaan International Airport, we find Samsung C&T’s subsidiary in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. Here, Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group has maintained stable business operations for over 30 years. Let’s find out more about life and work in Ulaanbaatar.

The story of Samsung C&T’s Ulaanbaatar subsidiary

Unlike some of the offices we’ve looked at, Samsung C&T’s subsidiary in Ulaanbaatar operates under a name that points to the company’s unique history in Mongolia. ERDSAM International Co., Ltd. was established in the early 1990s as a joint venture between Samsung C&T and Mongolia’s state-run mine Erdenet Mining Corporation  – they combined “ERD” and “SAM” from each of their names to form “ERDSAM.”

Samsung C&T fully acquired ERDSAM Corporation in 2008, but the company continues to do business with Erdenet – such as by purchasing its copper concentrate and selling it in China. In fact, ERDSAM’s traders handle a significant amount of copper ore produced by Erdenet.

They are not only working on copper concentrate but also various other metal-related business areas in Mongolia. ERDSAM members often need to embark on business trips to mines, traveling to remote areas in a country that is mostly covered in grassland but rich in metal ore deposits. These journeys may take five hours by car in weather conditions that swing between extremes of -30°C in winter to well above 30°C in summer.

Living and working in a land of contrasts

Yet, Ulaanbaatar is far from rural. With nearly half of Mongolia’s population based in the capital, ERDSAM’s staff can look out from their office in the very center of the city to witness heavy traffic weaving between skyscrapers. ERDSAM head Lee Jun-ho has adapted to life in Ulaanbaatar since moving there in 2021. But he tells us “there are certainly many aspects of Mongolia that differ from the typical perception.”

“For example, downtown Ulaanbaatar may initially resemble Seoul because of the abundance of Korean branded convenience stores and coffee shops. There is actually significant cooperation between Korea and Mongolia,” Lee reflects.

He has still had to take on some personal challenges, however, such as learning how to speak the local language.

“I have to communicate in Mongolian with many of our business partners here,” Lee says. “As I am not yet fluent, I tend to communicate with our employees together to avoid misunderstandings in business situations. I also try to speak Mongolian a lot in everyday life, such as in restaurants – although pronunciation is difficult!”

Secrets behind their success

There are several reasons why Lee and his team feel they have been able to enjoy success trading out of Ulaanbaatar. One of them is being able to freely express their opinions and listen to each other – allowing them to make decisions quickly.

“I feel like the employees are friendly and close-knit. The atmosphere in our office is positive. They complement each other well and show mutual respect in their work,” says Lee. He has actively encouraged this cooperative mood, both through office meetings and through staff activities such as when they went horseback riding together as a workshop activity earlier this year.

ERDSAM Corporation fosters a cooperative atmosphere through positive communication and team-building activities.

Good communication with partners, customers, and shipping companies is also vital to the subsidiary’s performance. For instance, they need to effectively coordinate a variety of schedules, needs and demands, which can vary between private companies and state-owned enterprises. By mediating effectively, ERDSAM can ensure smooth progress.

So far so good for Lee, who is filled with hope for the future. He insists, “It is crucial to maintain a stable copper concentrate trading business while also developing other metal-related business areas in Mongolia.”

“Given Mongolia’s abundant resources and its proximity to China, I anticipate that the metal business will remain prominent in Mongolia’s economy in the future. We will not rest on our laurels and will actively seek out new opportunities for growth,” Lee adds.

With optimism in the air, all of the ERDSAM members want to express their gratitude to their colleagues at Samsung C&T’s headquarters who work alongside them: “We hope to continue fostering strong collaboration and achieving even greater success together in the future!”

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