Many Asia-Pacific companies have not yet grasped that technology is an investment rather than an expense, hindering their potential productivity, according to business-to-business group Ariba. In Hong Kong last week for a Merrill Lynch conference, Ariba marketing director for Asia-Pacific Vijay Srinivasan said despite enthusiasm for new technology, not enough companies were buying it. 'Technology is not an expense, it's an investment,' Mr Srinivasan said. 'In the United States, continuous investment in technology has improved productivity. We could prove that you can have a return on investment within 12 months.' He said in Singapore and Hong Kong, technology absorption was higher than in less developed Asian nations, 'but the companies have not moved fast enough'. Today, the most active market in e-business is South Korea - a country that grasped the Internet revolution earlier than its regional counterparts. India follows closely behind, Mr Srinivasan said. He believes that over time, the message will get through. Ariba is hosting several conferences in Asia next year to preach to the region. California-based Ariba provides business-to-business solutions to global companies, streamlining such operations as the buying process or the managing of a supply chain. Last week, the company announced a fourth-quarter loss of US$1.1 million, excluding non-operating charges, against a loss of US$4.6 million in the period a year ago. The results were reportedly better than analysts' expectations. While touted as the next big thing earlier this year, business-to-business companies have had to endure a love-hate relationship with equity markets since a fallout on the Nasdaq market in April and a subsequent re-evaluation of tech stocks. Mr Srinivasan holds high hopes for Ariba and its growth in Asia, saying it plans to be 'one of the top two players' in its sector. Ariba will do this, he said, aided by partnerships that complement its solutions. 'It is important to realise our limitations. We believe very strongly that as a smaller company we need to leverage with strong partnerships,' he said. 'It opens a lot of doors for a company our size. Eight months ago, we only had 400 [employees] and now we've got 1,600.'