THE World-Wide Web has given rise to plenty of opportunities for businesses grow fast at a very low cost. Netscape, the company that makes the world's most popular Web browser, has done well enough to make founders Jim Clark and Marc Andreesen multi-millionaires in a matter of months. In Hong Kong many companies have set up as Web service providers giving businesses the opportunity to expand their overseas and local market coverage. One such company, Trade.net.hk ( http://www.trade.net.hk/ ), started putting its clients on the Internet last December. The company was only incorporated in July and officially launched on November 8. Chairman and founder of Trade.net.hk Thomas Kan Ming said he provided a service to businessmen who wanted to be more competitive. He said Hong Kong manufacturers needed such a service. He previously worked as the marketing manager for Bo Bo Tea (International) Ltd, where he started a Web site project for the company and got very good results as well as useful experience in developing and marketing a Web site. Noticing the growing future of such a business, he changed his status with Bo Bo Tea to consultant, allowing him to commit more time to his company, Trade.net.hk. 'I have spent over 11 months trying out the Web benefits on business. Through the experiences of myself and my clients, I think - when marketed right - Web technology will work for a lot of people in Hong Kong,' Mr Kan said. To put something on the Internet is quite easy. The tough part, according to Mr Kan, is the bandwidth of the telecom infrastructure behind it. He believes that no one wants to go back to look at a site again if he has tried several times and been rejected. Mr Kan said it was important for a Web site to be marketed well or no one would know of its existence. He said that aggressive and experienced marketing and very large bandwidth directly linked to overseas sites was critical to Web service providers to fulfil commitments to their clients. Trade.net.hk offers Web site hosting, consulting and development, virtual hosting, and a free CD-ROM package of client and Web page information to be distributed by mail and at trade shows for potential buyers who have not yet got Internet access. Other services include Web site marketing, news group announcements, E-mail announcements, direct mail and fax, regular updating of the existing buyers databank, and instant updating of viewer page information. The company also serves its clients with state-of-the-art infrastructure. With total direct bandwidth of 1,856K, which is larger than the usual T1 link, the company offers one of the fastest data transfer rates among the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Hong Kong. 'Using the Internet to look for information such as overseas suppliers is getting popular in Western countries. More and more US and European importers are using the Internet to search for information,' he said. 'People are making instant decisions in front of their computers. Manufacturers who have their product catalogue in front of the buyers will have a better chance getting the deal, of course someone else will lose it.' At present, Bo Bo Tea (International) Ltd, the Jackie Chan Group, the Golden Harvest Group and more are dedicated clients of Trade.net.hk. There are many other companies who have jumped on the bandwagon to provide Web services. The Web Connection Ltd ( http://webhk.com ) offers Web design and creation services, Web site hosting on its servers (SGI Indy's), and comprehensive information on activities in Hong Kong. From its Web site, the Web Connection has an interesting and comprehensive entertainment section. Within the next two months, a self-created lifestyle magazine and on-line shopping will be added. Web Connection director Neil Macdonald said the firm was trying to raise the profiles of local businesses by creating an effective presence on the Internet for them. He said, however, Web Connection's Web site had something to offer everyone. 'We have known about the Internet and the World-Wide Web for a long time and recognised the effect it was going to have on people's lives. No matter what anybody thinks, the Internet will end up having quite a dramatic effect on the life of every individual, sooner or later,' he said. Mr Macdonald stressed that quality was an important part of the service they provided - quality of customer care, quality of design, quality of the information they provide. Established in 1993, HugeNet Ltd ( http://www.huge.net.hk ) is the Asian mirror for Hot Java and TUCOWS. Several large frame-based sites will be introduced by this Web service provider early next month. HugeNet managing director Brad Collins believes that the real future is in electronic publishing and that companies which plan ahead and work to develop large, useful, well designed databases will be very successful. 'We are the only company in Hong Kong to take this approach. Each database we develop is targeted at a different market. Some are international, some are international niche markets, and some are local,' Mr Collins said. At this stage, HugeNet offers Web/graphic design, SQL database design, CGI Bin/Java programming, leased line services, Web server management, corporate consultancy services and ISP consultancy services to its clients. Mr Collins warned that people shopping for Web design and management should be careful not to look only at the price tag. A Web site which looked cheap and was located on a slow site was worse than not having a Web site at all. With the introduction of Netscape 2 and Sun Microsystems' Hot Java, Mr Collins thought that the level of difficulty in designing Web sites had gone up dramatically. Small shops with slow Web servers and not enough graphic or programming resources would go out of business, once they began to loose customers. 'Large databases, and commercial quality sites will quickly grow in popularity, while small companies will die from trying to do low-quality, high-volume design,' he said.