Asian companies must introduce electronic-commerce strategies to maintain their low-cost advantage over Western firms, according to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG claims that Asian companies serving global markets are the most at risk as more technologically advanced Western competitors cut their costs through e-commerce. Yet some companies have delayed their e-commerce strategies since the bursting of the Internet stock bubble last spring or have had difficulties implementing them. 'Now . . . is the time for Asian companies to redouble their efforts,' said Boston Consulting (Shanghai) vice-president Jim Hemerling. BCG issued a report on e-commerce in which 500 Asian companies were interviewed in 10 countries. Some have encountered difficulties in introducing their e-commerce strategies because they rely on long-standing business relationships. E-commerce strategies often require that they reach beyond these relationships, according to BCG. 'In some cases Asian companies have been unwilling to do this,' said Mr Hemerling. Asian companies also face external constraints to their plans such as barriers to trade and the difficulty of implementing the strategy over the large number of markets in the region. In China the consultants found that restriction on imports was a large constraint to building an e-commerce platform, in addition to having a less developed telecommunications network compared to rich nations. It is expected that many electronic market-places will fold as the region will not be able to support them all.