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Naranjargal Baljmaa: Offering tech solutions and innovation for Mongolia’s economic development

Posted: 9 August 2023

Naranjargal Baljmaa is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Acurr Solutions and an Australia Awards alumna from Mongolia who completed a Master of Economics at the Australian National University’s (ANU) College of Business and Economics in 2021, with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. At that time, we recorded the video below with Naranjargal about her experience as a scholar.

Now that Naranjargal has returned to Mongolia as an alumna, we contacted her again to ask about her experience; her responses, below, highlight how she is successfully applying her Australian education to benefit Mongolia.

What led you to choose the degree you studied in Australia?

Mongolia’s financial market is dominated by the banking sector; the total assets and capital market capitalisation of non-banking institutions only account for 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This is in contrast to trends in other developing countries. At the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia, I led several research projects, including comparative research on the international financial regulatory environment, financial products and best practices in integrating non-bank financial market policies. Among the countries I have studied, Australia is phenomenal in its economic reforms and financial market development, especially in tech-based financial market development. To understand how Australia succeeded in these fields, I decided to study in Australia. Applying for an Australia Awards Scholarship was the best choice for me to achieve my goal.

What made you passionate about your area of study?

In 2018, while I was a Senior Officer at the Research & Risk Evaluation Division at the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia, I had a chance to participate in two week-long seminars hosted by the Bank of Mongolia, where Professor Kaliappa Kalirajan from the ANU College of Business and Economics gave us valuable insights into the econometric and stochastic model. Compared to other training I’ve received, these seminars were very practical and easily applicable to my work. These inspired me to learn more deeply about economics, which in turn helped me gain important insights essential to my career. As a matter of fact, I came to recognise that Mongolia’s leading economists at the Central Bank of Mongolia, whose work and analysis have inspired me and my fellow economists, are also alumni from ANU.

Can you tell us about your experience in Australia, both at university and outside of university?

The years in Australia were a challenging but also a growing period for me in both my personal and professional life. Studying with professionals from different countries and backgrounds was a new experience that offered global perspectives while equipping me with highly valued skills such as intercultural communication and adaptability. Additionally, the chance to work as a part-timer allowed me to make lifelong connections with my co-workers and to understand more about Australians. Another experience in Australia I would highlight is travelling. Although I had less chance to travel because of COVID-19 restrictions, I still visited the most beautiful sceneries in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, which I would recommend to others. To think of these memories now, I do appreciate every experience I had in Australia.

Can you share how your Scholarship helped you develop your professional network?

The other students who were Australia Awards Scholarship recipients were from government organisations and priority sectors of their countries. Having connections with those professionals gave me broader insights into developing countries. Exchanging experiences about our countries’ cases and hearing how they tackle the challenges allowed us to build deeper connections.

How did you adjust to returning to Mongolia?

Most of my friends who studied abroad told me that they experienced reverse culture shock when they returned to Mongolia. As for me, I didn’t face it that much. Because I left my two daughters behind in Mongolia, I spent some months away from work to look after them when I returned. That period with my children allowed me to adjust to my former lifestyle.

Also, Australia Awards organises numerous networking events and capacity-building training for its alumni after they return to their home countries. I had a chance to participate in one such event, the Women Leadership Program, where participants implement community development projects while receiving all necessary training for project management and leadership. The program allowed me to network with Australia Awards alumni and professionals and made it easier to re-adjust to society.

How has your Australia Awards experience supported your career enhancement?

The knowledge I gained and all my experiences in Australia boosted my confidence to start my own business in the insurance sector. Currently, the insurance sector in Mongolia cannot even reach 1% market penetration. That is a low performance compared to other developing countries. Insurtech companies [which offer technology innovations to create cost savings and efficiency for the insurance industry] will play a vital role to facilitate the sector’s growth. Hence, I started a company that offers tech solutions to the insurance market participants. We aim to automate the insurance process and make it more efficient, easier, and accessible for insurers and policyholders. With tech solutions, the sector has the potential to expand its current market base three times at least. I believe our work will contribute to the growth of the Mongolian insurance market.

What are your ambitions for the future?

In the coming years, I would like to expand my business to the international level. In the growth theory, technological innovation has a direct effect on a country’s economic development. So, I see that my current business has the potential to expand in developing countries.

What is your advice for someone thinking about applying for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

Studying in Australia is a life-changing opportunity. In addition to providing academic knowledge, this Scholarship offers a whole new experience for your family. I would say it is the most generous scholarship. Even after returning to your home country, it suggests opportunities to grow in your career and help you to become more influential. The network we have worldwide creates a different story for you. I am so proud to be a part of the Australia Awards community.