To make Interstoff Asia a more attractive marketplace for the textile industry, organiser Messe Frankfurt is operating an online database through which buyers can source suppliers instantly. Unlike other databases which require users to send individual e-mail to potential suppliers, Messe Frankfurt's SmartSource online service allows a buyer to send the same inquiry in one e-mail to all potential suppliers that may meet their specific needs, says director, trade fairs, Katy Lam. SmartSource was launched in October last year for Interstoff Asia Autumn. Interstoff Asia exhibitors will remain in the database for six months as part of the package of taking part in the event, with the option of extending their presence for a fee. About 900 suppliers are now online. Buyers can register free but have to go through a stringent vetting procedure to prove they are legitimate buyers. 'We want to make sure it wouldn't be a platform to cull business secrets. For example, we won't let textile manufacturers be our buyers and ask their competitors for sensitive information such as pricing while posing as a buyer,' she says. The strict vetting procedure is required because suppliers do not have the same benefit of checking out buyers online as they have through interaction in a trade show. So far, Messe Frankfurt has approved 700 to 800 buyers to access the database, with more applications still to be processed. Buyer membership to the database is valid for a year. To avoid abuse, suppliers can report spam, advertising or junk mail sent through the system. Messe Frankfurt will cancel the culprit's membership to the database. Despite the ease in making connections, the online marketplace will not threaten to replace the trade show. 'In textiles, you need to touch and look at texture, and discuss in detail what the needs are,' Ms Lam says.