Hong Kong-based GoldQuest International has turned its small mail-order business into a global e-commerce operation - with targeted annual revenues of more than US$3 billion over the next five years. GoldQuest executives say they have Microsoft to thank for the company's growth. 'We have been a Microsoft user since day one and we have decided to stick with the Windows platform as we continue to expand,' GoldQuest finance director Richard Zinkiewicz said. 'As an accountant, I have no hesitation in saying that this commitment has paid off. By exploiting standard computing technologies to the fullest, we have managed to grow our business through the years.' The company was one of the first in Asia to adopt Microsoft's new Windows Server 2003 enterprise edition operating system. Mr Zinkiewicz said GoldQuest's new Windows infrastructure would allow it to handle annual online transactions worth up to US$3.65 billion over the next five years. GoldQuest was set up as a mail-order numismatics business in 1998, supplying gold products of collectible value, such as limited-edition coins, timepieces and jewellery. It now has more than 500,000 regular customers in 120 countries, supported by a network of 14 offices and numerous distributors in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It has also widened its portfolio to 150 products, priced from US$400 to US$20,000. The company launched an online portal, eStore, in May 2000 using Microsoft's Internet Information Service (IIS) 5.0 program on the Windows 2000 platform. Mr Zinkiewicz said that milestone had allowed GoldQuest, based in Wan Chai, to expand its business beyond its expectations. He said the company compiled its first database of 30,000 customers on a friend's laptop running Microsoft Access. 'By mid-2001, we were doing 50 per cent of our business online,' he said. 'Today, more than 70 per cent of GoldQuest transactions are completed over the Internet.' The eStore, at www.GoldQuest.com , handles between 3,000 and 10,000 transactions a week. It expects its annual turnover to hit US$170 million this year, after reaching the US$100 million mark last year. 'GoldQuest operates as a retail compensation programme similar to the reward programmes offered by credit card companies. We have also created a closed e-commerce currency to ensure the security of transactions on our site,' Mr Zinkiewicz said. He credits this currency, the GoldQuest eCard, for raising customer confidence in online payment and sustaining the company's early gains as an e-commerce operation. With the new IIS 6.0 program on Windows Server 2003, GoldQuest officials are expecting improved productivity, customer service and return on investment. Mr Zinkiewicz said GoldQuest's new Windows setup 'reduced information technology cost per dollar of sales' by 25 per cent. According to GoldQuest director of research and development Tagumpay Kintanar, the company joined the 'rapid deployment programme' for Windows Server 2003 in Asia 'because we wanted to do it right the first time'.