Founded by Vani Nades in 2014, Emstret Holdings Ltd was created through a desire to connect all Papua New Guineans through affordable internet and deliver digital equality.
In 2018, Emstret was selected as a two-time winner of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Digital Innovation Awards, a programme sponsored by ExxonMobil PNG. This award was given in recognition of Emstret’s central role in providing communications and IT solutions that cover business needs across the country.
“Winning these awards gave us an enormous sense of satisfaction,” explains Vani. “The awards were a kind of validation that told us we were doing the right thing. It encouraged us to keep working, to continue to think creatively, and that’s how the E-Space was born in 2019.”
The E-Space is the first of its kind in Port Moresby – a community-led shared working space that enables young entrepreneurs and businesses to collaborate, network and work together to inspire a new approach to business development.
“The main idea behind the E-Space was to bring people together. Local businesses play a vital role in the economy of this country, but it’s often difficult for them to move from step to step. The E-Space creates a platform where businesses can find support – not only can they use the physical office space, but they can also connect with other service providers, share ideas, and participate in different events to improve their own capacity. This is what creates a business buzz.”
Despite the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Vani and her team understood the importance of continuing to provide a platform for collaboration and innovation – even if it could not take place in person.
“The past year has also been a blessing. It’s enabled us to diversify our E-Space offering by being less reliant on cash and encouraging digital growth amongst our entrepreneurs and businesses.”
Emstret not only looked at creating opportunities by helping its members develop websites and facilitating livestream round tables and collaboration events, but it also looked to redefine how its members sold their e-commerce products.
“2020’s COVID-19 State of Emergency inspired us to launch ShopsmartPNG Ltd. This is Papua New Guinea’s first global e-commerce platform that connects millions of buyers and sellers around the country and the world in a safe and controlled environment.”
Opening a virtual marketplace removed the reliance on face-to-face sales and increased interest in Emstret’s E-space member businesses. ShopsmartPNG’s extensive distribution channels, including payment gateways and local and international postal partnerships, allows members to conduct business from anywhere across Papua New Guinea.
“Essentially, ShopsmartPNG is Papua New Guinea’s version of eBay. It encourages all entrepreneurs and businesses across the country to join an online marketplace that not only introduces their products to the wider community, but also the world.”
Vani believes that platforms like the E-Space and ShopsmartPNG are incredibly important to the future of the country. The recognition she gained from winning the ExxonMobil PNG sponsored SME Digital Innovation Award provided a platform to boost her own business, which in turn inspired Vani to create similar opportunities for others.
“Papua New Guinea is a country with enormous potential and there are already people out there doing incredible things. In a way, that’s what the SME Digital Innovation Awards symbolised, and that’s the same idea we’re trying to promote. When we work together, we win together.”
As part of the award, Emstret received a series of training programs offered by the Institute of Banking and Business Management. Instead of attending these programs herself, Vani enabled Emstret staff to take advantage to create new value for participating individuals as well as the broader business.
Since 2013, more than 5,000 Papua New Guinean students have participated in SAP with EMPNG volunteers visiting 90 classrooms across PNG LNG Project areas and Port Moresby schools to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.