NIUEAN OWNED & FIRST PACIFIC ISP (INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER) IN NZ
With over twenty years’ experience running his ISP company in Niue, Emani Lui took a leap of faith in 2015 when he set up MakaNet. MakaNet is currently the first and only pacific-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP) company in New Zealand.
Emani Lui, who is the founder of MakaNet was born and raised in Niue and is from the village of Alofi. He travelled to New Zealand to complete his studies in Computer Studies at UNITEC and was later employed in the information systems sector of the Government of Niue.
In 1999, Emani established his first ISP Company Kaniu, which still operates today. Kaniu helped to deliver and improve internet services across Niue, from dial-up to wireless and now via satellite.
Emani recalls that when Kaniu was first set up, the internet was transitioning from just sending emails to online browsing and the like. “Our company helped to facilitate the internet during crucial periods of servicing on the island.”
He shares that his vision for Kaniu is to contribute to the development in Niue and to give back to the community. “Seeing how the internet has transformed people’s lives over the years has been rewarding for me and that’s why I’m passionate about what I do.”
But divine intervention led Emani to New Zealand at the end of 2014. “I stayed longer than expected. After nine months, I was still here. So, I decided to look into New Zealand’s ISP industry”, says Emani.
He discovered that similar to Niue, many parts of remote New Zealand still had limited access to reliable and fast internet. Emani saw the opportunity to provide internet services for those communities.
But setting up wasn’t easy for the entrepreneur who says it took many months of research, consulting and building his networks in the industry.
“Starting a business is not easy, especially outside of your home or your comfort zone”, says Emani. “It can also be a lonely journey. When things don’t go as planned, you have to believe in God, yourself and your vision. Never lose faith.”
By 2017, Emani had teamed up with several Kiwis and co-founded a new satellite broadband service, targeting New Zealand’s rural areas. The start-up company became one of three satellite broadband companies alongside Farmside and Wireless Nation, disrupting the industry by becoming the first to offer unlimited data via satellite.
Emani remembers journeying to the more remote areas of New Zealand where he installed satellite dishes for his clients.
“I would spend 3-4 days away from home, it was tough and lonely at times.” But his travels allowed him to better understand the industry and the different parts of New Zealand’s internet services.
After months on the road, Emani was curious whether there was a pacific-owned ISP in New Zealand. “I approached Laura to find out”, he says. Coincidentally, when Emani had met with Laura, who is the founder of The Pacific Business Hub (PBH), she had been planning to switch internet providers.“ She shared the issues she was facing with her existing provider.
So, I told her that I could do her internet and phone for the hub”, says Emani. In July 2019, MakaNet secured The Pacific Business Hub as their first customer.
MakaNet have now extended from broadband via satellite to fibre broadband, allowing them to penetrate into urban areas and making them the first pacific-owned ISP in New Zealand.
Emani shares that venturing into the urban markets has helped to grow his business. “We are now able to cater our services for our pacific communities and pacific businesses through our fibre network service”, he says.
In addition, Makanet’s telecommunications solutions service aims to empower consumers to make informed choices about their internet plans.
“At the end of the day, we are here to help people receive the best value for their money – even if it means that another provider may have a better suited product that meet the needs and means of our clients”, says Emani.
When asked about the future, MakaNet strives to become one of the top ISP companies out of existing ISPs in New Zealand. Emani believes that with God, anything is possible. As he reflects on his journey of having to overcome many challenges, he says that above everything, the biggest challenge is having the courage to just do it.
“We all fear failure, but we have to activate our faith and put our trust in God.” Emani adds that limited sources of funding and generating capital at the outset are the inevitable challenges of being a start-up company. “You will never have enough finances or resources, but you must have a plan of action – your business plan and how you execute and revise it is necessary.”
Emani advises other entrepreneurs to stay grounded and humble. He also encourages to seek wise and sound counsel and to surround yourself with the right people. When asked about what it means to be pacific owned, Emani says that MakaNet is a calling from God to serve his pacific people.
Today, MakaNet operates from their office located at the Pacific Business Hub. As Emani shares, “Our customers have grown since we linked up with the hub, most of them have come to us through our networks here.”
The ISP entrepreneur shares that the hub enables collaboration, sharing, mentoring and networking amongst pacific businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Working with them every day, side by side inspires me and my team. We all share the same vision for our pacific people and strive towards creating opportunities for them and our communities.”
The team behind MakaNet is Emani Lui (Managing Director), Nia Pearson (Project Director) and Joseph Sionetuato (Technical Manager).