ECONOMIC reforms have revolutionised India, which has joined the global market economy after decades of protectionism. A primary factor in liberalisation has been India's acceptance of foreign financing. Businesses are juggling their bank accounts in order to invest, for while countries everywhere are opening up, few can offer such a huge and promising market as India. Sales of primary consumer products are expected to reach a base of 200 million people, with more upmarket goods reaching 120 million. It is a market the size of Europe; in Asia it is second only to China. And as the level of income rises, and more people take home earnings which bring them above the poverty line, the market will grow. Hongkong has been quick to jump on the bandwagon and last February the first trade mission to India from Hongkong left the territory. Organised by Hongkong's Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Hongkong Trade Development Council, delegates met government and private sector representatives, with a view to setting up joint ventures. Hongkong's Indian Chamber of Commerce has received inquiries from both locally-based Indian companies and Hongkong firms looking for information about investment opportunities in India. The acting commissioner for India in Hongkong, Mr Deepak Ray, said institutional investors should consider India's opportunities. ''Hongkong is well known for fund management, and as one step in the process of new legislation, the Indian Government has permitted institutional investors to invest in the country's financial markets,'' said Mr Ray. ''This offer has been accepted with interest by several institutional investors, and the first step, registration, has been taken by major banks and fund managers in Hongkong, such as Barclays and GT Management. ''In addition, there are large numbers of people in Hongkong who have the capital to invest. They could do well to look at India,'' he said. But liberalisation is not just a chance for foreign multinationals to come into India, it is an opportunity for local firms to reach global markets. They are reaching out to the rest of the world, gaining a foothold not just in Asia but in Europe and the United States. Hongkong's Indian community is responsible for about 10 per cent of the territory's exports, and is well placed to expand business with India. Most Hongkong-based Indian companies have a presence in India, either through financial interests or family connections, and the key to the community's success has always been partially due to the network of Indian trading communities around the world. The network is based on the business strengths of family ties, friendship and trust. This mutual respect means Indian traders have traditionally been able to offer unique services as middlemen in business transactions. Thanks to the simultaneous economic reforms in China, Hongkong-based Indian companies have developed a role as a conduit between the two burgeoning economies. Hongkong has an important role to play as a link in the chain. ''Hongkong has always been important and will continue to remain important. ''A large proportion of Chinese exports to India are routed through Hongkong, and vice versa,'' said Mr Ray. Indian traders have already established manufacturing bases in southern China, and recent bilateral trade talks have resulted in a deal between the two countries. At the same time, the reforms mean India is rivalling China's fast-growing manufacturing base. Trade advantages claimed by India over China include its geographical position: it is closer to Europe so transportation costs are lower. India also boasts a highly-skilled workforce and a well-developed education system. Despite skilled people leaving for the West, there are still enough highly-qualified people left behind. But Mr Ray insisted India was not trying to take business away from China. ''We are not trying to become an alternative, but we are liberalising our own economic system and we do need investment. ''Part of the process will involve developing India as a manufacturing base.''