Stronger together: why Papua New Guinea’s SMEs need to look out for one another


What do micro, small and medium-sized businesses in Papua New Guinea actually need to thrive? Two entrepreneurs heavily involved in the country’s SME ecosystem gave their thoughts to the recent 2021 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference.

An example of PNG artisanship. Credit: Cathy Wariapa

Emstret’s CEO Vani Nades during the launch of Shopsmart PNG. Credit: Emstret

While Papua New Guinea is undergoing something of a boom in SME development, the country’s small businesses still face a lot of challenges.

Vani Nades, Managing Director at internet services provider Emstret Holdings, cites things like a lack of available capital, competing with the bigger players and often feeling isolated as key issues.

Her answer is a greater degree of collaboration between the smaller players in the market.

‘If people want something from PNG, people need to pay a proper price for it.’

‘Papua New Guinea SMEs need a bit of guidance, mentorship and having access to platforms where they can grow their business,’ Nades says.

‘They have great products and great services they just need a hand up from where they are to where they want to go. If you can connect them to people around the sector so it inspires them to keep working on their business model, then at the end of the day they want to impact their own communities.’

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Connection is key

Pascoe Promotion’s Sylvia Pascoe.

Sylvia Pascoe of event and marketing business Pascoe Promotions agrees that many need some mentoring and support to grow their businesses.

She also believes that a key problem in PNG is that many people don’t realise the depth of products and services offered by SMEs, nor how to find them.

‘I run a page online called SMEs 4 Change [Facebook, 38K members] and the point of that is to give people the opportunity to seek out SMEs first,’ Pascoe says.

‘That came about because I do events and expos and there were a few companies that were coming to do events in PNG and they were shipping all their gear [into PNG], right down to their own forklift.

‘The idea that people think there are no forklifts in PNG shows that connections are key.’

Unique offerings

Both Nades and Pascoe talk up the originality and passion that many small business owners have in PNG, but also consider how the sector could grow.

‘PNG is very unique in its cultural way of doing things and the unique things I see are our artisans, our art and our craft,’ says Nades, whose company offers internet services for SMEs and encourages them to get into doing digital business.

‘That craft can be exported to the world that has a story to it, like a bilum. We are attached to tradition and our stories and we can take that out to the world and say “here we are”.’

Nades adds that the challenges of COVID-19 have also forced local businesses to innovate. ‘Because of COVID we launched our Shopsmart ecommerce platform.’

Pascoe agrees that PNG’s specialty is in its crafts and says more could be done to highlight the quality and care that goes into these products.

‘People ask if we can fill 20 containers worth of bilums and I explain that every single billum, every single basket, every single necklace is different,’ she says.

‘Every single item is unique and we want to keep the culture alive and to keep those items as valuable as possible because they are art. If people want something from PNG, people need to pay a proper price for it.’

But these artisan businesses need to be underpinned by the right business knowledge and support.

‘Basic business education is one of the things that people are always asking for,’ she says. ‘At the moment a lot of people don’t know where to get information and there is some hesitancy.’

Missed the 2021 Business Advantage Papua New Guinea Investment Conference? Gain access to all the exclusive presentations, slides and videos from the conference with an on-demand ticket.


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