Toy maker Yu Lai-kwong describes himself as a 'small potato' in the business world. On overseas sales trips, he flies economy class. In foreign capitals, he steers clear of five-star hotels and fancy restaurants. 'I'm no big shot - just a small trader on a tight budget,' Mr Yu said. Yet his company, Super Product Industries, and another 100,000 like it registered with the TDC's Trade Enquiry Service, are what make the territory tick. They are the backbone of the economy and their exports ensure Hong Kong maintains a healthy trading surplus with the world. And it is for companies like Super Product Industries that the Trade Enquiry Service, together with its on-line system, TDC-Link, is specifically designed. Mr Yu, 46, founded the firm in 1982 with a small joint venture factory and a workforce of 80 in Shenzhen, supported by the nerve centre of his trading operation - an office cluttered with boxes of products and manned by a dozen employees in Sheung Wan. 'Almost since the beginning, I have used the TDC service a lot,' he said. 'They are a perfect bridge between buyers and traders and have been very helpful in promotion.' When a foreign buyer seeks a product from Hong Kong, the TDC can match demand with a data base of suppliers such as Mr Yu. The computerised data base is crucial, for the TDC processed 420,000 such enquiries last year alone. 'On average, somewhere in the world, four trade enquiries are handled every minute by the council's global network of 51 offices,' a spokesman said. For traders like Mr Yu, the system is equally effective overseas. The TDC data base helps him find buyers - last year it helped 230,000 Hong Kong businessmen link up with overseas buyers. When Super Product Industries first ventured into the export business, most customers were in the United States. 'I flew frequently to Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami,' Mr Yu said. 'And, wherever I went, I used the TDC offices. I could meet customers there, use the fax and telephone and find out from helpful staff about other potential customers. 'The facility was an invaluable help to my business, especially in the early days when I didn't know how to contact people.' Since then, Mr Yu has expanded his trading network. Most of his customers now are in Europe, not the US. 'The market has changed,' he said. 'Now we are exporting to Australia, South America, the Middle East, Far East and especially the former eastern bloc countries.' He hopes the TDC will also be able to open offices in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, where there is a market for toys.