From Chinggis to Louis

from_chinggis_to_louis

Is the new Louis Vuitton shop in Ulaanbaatar the start of a new area in Mongolian Globalisation?

Article published by Chris de Gruben

It could easily be argued that Mongolia was one of the first nations to develop today’s concept of globalization; the free exchange of ideas, products and concepts across borders with few restriction.

The mighty Mongol army not only conquered the better part of the known world but they also embraced and developed the cultures that they came across. Under the Mongols, new technologies, various commodities and ideologies were disseminated and exchanged across Eurasia.  Mongols were highly tolerant of most religions, and typically sponsored several at the same time. At the time of Genghis Khan, virtually every religion had found converts in its capital city of Karakorum.

The armies of Chinggis Khaan not only revolutionized strategic warfare but also understood that survival and growth came in the exchange and adaptation of ideas, trade and concepts. The Mongol administration pioneered the use of a fast postal service, the introduction of a writing system and created a fair judicial system. European travelers were often amazed by the organization, freedom of trade and strict discipline of the people within the Mongol Empire.

It is thus ironic that the Mongolian Empire so quickly faded from world view and Mongolia slowly became one of the most isolated and least understood lands in the world until the early 1990’s when the communist system collapsed.

It is now awakening (with a jolt) from that deep commercial slumber and making up time. Over the past 5 years , there has already been tremendous visible change, new shops open every week, restaurants come and go, virtually every product is now available in UB and more arrive all the time. The level and quality of services are improving at a fast rate, a few years ago, a Subway style sandwich shop such as Sub’baatar would have been unthinkable and yet here it is today.

Despite all the criticism Mongolia is getting in the international press, it is one of the only true functioning democracies in Asia, with freedom of speech, a fair judicial system and a rule of law. While there is currently a strong rebirth of the Chinggis Khan cult, forbidden during the soviet period, this is merely a demonstration of the national pride and awareness that is quickly awakening. Mongolia is getting ready to take part in world affairs once more. It is an exciting time to be here, it is a time of intense change.

But where does the average Mongolian nomad fit in this new world order? Have they been left behind? There has of course been heavy urbanization in Mongolia over the recent years, a lot of young urban residents are the first generation of their family to be born or to grow up in the city, it is likely that over the next few years, there will be a growing divide between town and country but it always seem to me that the young Mongolian urbanites never quite forget their roots in the countryside and often go back to it in search of their identity. Mongolians will always be nomads at heart and retain a strong attachement for the countryside, is that enough to sustain it economically?

Even the nomad in the darkest depths of the country is accepting and often embracing his new commercial reality. The price he sells his cashmere, buys his petrol or the taxes he pays are all dictated by international markets and their fluctuations. It is the new path that Mongolia has embarked on and the majority of its population is playing the game of international trade and commerce.

With the “soon to be opening” Louis Vuitton Store in Ulaanbaatar, it is a renewed chapter in its globalization history that Mongolia is opening but I sincerely hope that, in these turbulent times of its history, Mongolia will control how its identity is shifting and changing. Change to Mongolia and its population is inevitable, I only hope that globalization in this case will still be working both ways, Mongolia has much to learn from the world but at the same time the world has much to learn from Mongolia.

The question must also be asked of why is Louis Vuitton in Ulaanbaatar, is there a sufficiently sized market to justify it commercially or is it merely a question of “ethnic branding”, are they planning to launch a Mongolian cashmere range? Or is it merely good PR to be omnipresent and display a retail location in every Asian capital (with the  possible exception of Pyongyang).

Furthermore, will this new shop be part of a wave of international chains opening retail locations in Ulaanbaatar? Will it be a catalyst for not only luxury household names but also different brands such as GAP or Banana republik and financial services such as HSBC? Maybe some restauration networks such as Outback Steakhouse or Starbucks coffee will be enticed to come to Mongolia, maybe even big distribution network such as carrefour or Tesco could find sufficient markets to justify starting Mongolian operations.

Already Mongolia has an impressive number of international brands with Adidas, Mercedes Benz, Dior, Esprit, Swarovski, BMW, Landrover, Lavazzia and many more.. A hilton and a Shangri La hotels are scheduled to open in UB in the next few years.

I, for one, look forward to seeing the changed landscape of UB and Mongolia in a few years from now and I will look for Mongolia’s influence in the region and the wider world.

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Archived Comments
Zarla
2009-07-10 08:33:44
please dont change this beautiful and ancient land too much. I love it the way it is!
Ontstaan
2009-07-11 19:28:44
"The question must also be asked of why is Louis Vuitton in Ulaanbaatar..." Is it perhaps a franchise operation? I am sure mongolians are familiar with the concept of the franchise business model and it won't be long before some of the USD that UB is awash with in certain quarters, will be invested in global brand franchise operations.
erte
2009-07-12 06:17:37
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Ontstaan
2009-07-12 11:57:34
"The question must also be asked of why is Louis Vuitton in Ulaanbaatar..." Is it perhaps a franchise operation? I am sure mongolians are familiar with the concept of the franchise business model and it won't be long before some of the USD that UB is awash with in certain quarters, will be invested in global brand franchise operations.
Tas
2009-07-12 16:41:59
A rare, fair, decent article about Mongolia, in the midst of all the negativity the others suggest by thier exotisation of Mongolia.
Ontstaan
2009-07-12 19:53:33
"Already Mongolia has an impressive number of international brands with Adidas, Mercedes Benz, Dior, Esprit, Swarovski, BMW, Landrover, Lavazzia and many more.. A hilton and a Shangri La hotels are scheduled to open in UB in the next few years." How about some basic orphanage and education facilities for all the street children first? How about a dose of reality (aka "negativity" by some) too, for all the hype will not change the fact that Mongolia's climate is harsh and that any significant wealth will be at the cost of turning Mongolia into a landscape of gigantic mining operations. Mongolia is a unique country and it will require a novel approach to manage difficult changes in the coming years - changes that should meet the needs of all the people, not simply polarising society into "haves" and "have-nots".
UncleSam
2009-07-13 18:34:41
Since non-Mongolians cannot get a visa to stay in Mongolia being a LV owner/rep, unless the owner is a special case like he has an investors visa, it must be owned by Mongolians. Why don't you ask the Mongolian owners why they want to have a LV store in UB? Maybe the Mongolians who probably own the store like the brand or see it as an opportunity. How about Naadam wrestling: There are few simple rules, no weight or height classes, yet everybody's watching it in Mongolia. What if they had special rules to protect the underweight wrestlers or short wrestlers? Or what if Olympic medal Greco-Roman wrestlers wanted to wrestle, but were disqualified because they didn't know the eagle dance? What if the Mongolian economy was more like the rules of Naadam wrestling?
Ontstaan
2009-07-14 20:54:28
LV, Dior et al are simply a glittering distraction, a promise of better things, perhaps once mining contracts are hastily or tardily signed depending on your point of view. The reality however, is apparent if you take the time and trouble to actually walk the streets of UB � not just a cocooned ride in a blacked out Landcruiser. Little sign of improvement for most urban dwellers considering the mineral wealth exploited to date. This does not bode well for the future of the larger part of UB�s population. In 2000 years, it seems that we are no further forward in managing safely the empire-building excesses of a few. Why not build a new coliseum amphitheatre in UB, draped in the colours of whichever global brand is in fashion and entertain the citizens of UB as their children are thrown to the wolves.
UncleSam
2009-07-15 08:46:36
LV just sells some clothing, right? I'll admit I never bought any LV brand anything. I like a lot of things about Mongolian style clothing. I bet somebody could figure out how to take some good points of Mongolian clothing and put it in a modern urban context. (please no Fubu reruns!) That probably has real possibilities to compete. Tradition has limitations. The world is changing all the time. We have to adapt and grow stronger. We can take the good points of the past and find out how they work in a modern reality. Nostalgia alone probably doesn't admit the bad points of the past. LV just sells clothes. After you buy some fancy clothes, maybe you'll eventually find out how limited they are no matter what label is on it.
hi
2009-09-26 14:47:49
FIRST OF ALL THE LV STORE HERE DOESNT HAVE A MONGOLIAN OWNER AND I KNOW IT BECAUSE MY MOMS AUDIT COMPANY IS DOING THE AUDIT FOR LV AND THE STORE IS REALLY THE REAL LV STORE.
hi
2009-09-26 14:50:37
WELL I KNOW THE REASON WHY THE LV STORE IS HERE IN UB. ITS BECAUSE LOUIS VUITTON ALWAYS OPEN TWO STORES A YEAR IN DIFFERENT PLACES BUT KNOW THEY ARE ONLY OPENING IT IN HERE
Wowow
2009-10-05 00:56:12
Who is gonna buy those bags? No one will.
Wowow
2009-10-05 00:58:55
My question is who is going to buy the LV products? What is it need for? Who cares those bags? NO ONE CAN AFFORD...NOT MANY PEOPLE FOR SURE..
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Lise
2009-10-23 16:41:07
Obviously the article is written by a person who has the heart for Mongolia. Thanks for the interestingly putted article.
MD
2009-10-26 11:03:15
LV is for rich and famous people. Actually lots of Mongolians bought LV already. When I visited to LV today, i saw Uka from KIWI , and Bold from Camerton bought LV clothes and bags :)
takhi
2009-10-27 05:18:05
It seems to me that the Mongols have been synthesizing whatever they find of interest from other cultures for 800 years. I don't think that an LV store is much of a threat. The mining might be a different issue, however. I totally agree with what UncleSam says: "I like a lot of things about Mongolian style clothing. I bet somebody could figure out how to take some good points of Mongolian clothing and put it in a modern urban context." I think Mongol Style is an international fashion trend just waiting to happen.
Starbucks
2010-01-24 22:10:44
Starbucks in Ulaanbaatar!!!!! UB sure needs cafe shops like Starbucks!!!
Chris Sumpter
2010-01-26 00:18:24
Try Coffee Empire. It's not so different from Starbucks.
anup
2010-03-27 10:52:52
http://coomararunodaya.com
eric
2010-10-18 15:12:33
I don't like any comments that you wrote guys. What do you mean by don't change the land you wanna leave it like ancient, non-developed, poor. I would say no way.
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