Laying solid foundations
The building company making its mark across PNG
Rhodes is a pre-fabricated buildings company focused on the Papua New Guinea market. Managing director, Emanuel Papas, says the best way to describe the company is as a designer, supplier and provider of prefabricated buildings.
“The vertical integration (of design, supply and delivery) allows us to deliver buildings at very competitive pricing, whether it is tenders or just the supply of materials and kits on their own,” he says.
PNG is the company’s main market, but it is also registered in Fiji. Rhodes is also currently diversifying into other countries in the Pacific.
Papas believes the barriers to entry in PNG are high, which means that once a company is established it is in a position of advantage.
“It takes a while to set up, it takes a while to get your feet on the ground and the right local people in place. It is quite difficult to do business sometimes.
“Logistically, there are some very remote areas in PNG, which makes it tough to deliver
on your contracts. You certainly have to keep working at that.”
He says the company has operations across PNG. “The main facility for our manufacturing and logistics plant is in Port Moresby, and there are also regional lay down yards in Wabag, Alotau and Arawa to support various provinces. Then there are the individual project offices.”
Papas says one of the company’s main focuses is on Overseas Development Assistance projects.
“School buildings we provide are funded mostly by DFAT (the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). And then we do health centres, which are funded by the ADB (the Asian Development Bank).
We do have some housing projects with the likes of Nambawan Super. We are also in discussions with various housing authorities in the Pacific in order to provide affordable housing for the demand that exists.”
Rhodes may have a regional back-office structure (a procurement and manufacturing operation in China, a back-end design office in the Philippines, a head office in Australia), but Papas says the operations are very localised.
“I would estimate that about 95 per cent of our labour force in PNG is national. And I don’t just mean our own local staff out of our head office in PNG. I mean local as in the local villages where our projects are.
“Our typical project structure will be a supervisor and a leading hand and they will act as supervisors and instructors for the local village’s mostly unskilled labour force. Which, based on our system, means it doesn’t take long for people to become familiar with how it all gets installed.
“We are having some good success in training local people who can then utilise these newly acquired building skills for other projects, or for themselves in their own capacity. It is quite a satisfying outcome at the end of each project.”
Papas believes that PNG is transforming into a country with a burgeoning middle class. “There are skills, there are growth opportunities, and there are job opportunities.
“They (Papua New Guineans) aspire to get quality housing and a better-quality lifestyle and that is where our investment is, in terms of providing housing and social infrastructure – to support growing and improving communities.”
Building up … Emanuel Papas and one of his company’s prefabricated buildings (right).