FRANCHISING is likely to become an increasingly prominent form of business in Hong Kong during the next few years. There are now only about 80 franchise names in Hong Kong - compared with about 50,000 in the United States, which is recognised as the ''home'' of franchising. Franchisors - who hold the licensing rights for franchises - see the territory as an ideal testing ground for the huge and lucrative China market. In addition, investors in Hong Kong will be keen to set up franchise businesses as the concept becomes more widely accepted. A franchise is an authorisation from a company to sell its goods or services in a particular way. The most obvious example of a successful franchise business in Hong Kong - and worldwide - is the American fast food chain McDonald's. For franchisees, the appeal of a franchise is being able to set up a business under an established name with proven methods of success. For the consumer, franchises are popular because they are familiar names with proven standards of quality. Franchises are relatively new to Hong Kong but the number of franchise businesses is likely to rise significantly in the near future. ''I think it would be safe to say that franchising has grown over the past year or two at a very rapid rate,'' said Charlotte Chow, manager of the Hong Kong Franchise Association. ''It [the growth] will be very rapid during the next few years as people start to move into China. It is a huge market and Hong Kong is the gateway to China.'' The Hong Kong Franchise Association, which is approaching its second anniversary, was set up early last year to promote the spread of franchising in the Asian region. The association is one of the joint organisers of Franchising '93, which is being staged for franchisors and master franchisors worldwide to promote their businesses. The exhibition is also aimed at local investors who may be considering buying a franchise. Seminars will be held during the event, focusing on the business opportunities presented by franchising; buying an overseas franchise; the role of intellectual property in franchising; and developing franchising in China. The Hong Kong Franchise Association is also publishing two Chinese-language books to coincide with the exhibition. They are translations from English works titled How To Franchise Your Business, and How To Evaluate A Franchise. The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), another of the joint organisers, has also been involved in promoting franchising in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's first franchising exhibition was held last year after a trade mission from the HKPC visited the International Franchise Expo in Washington. ''The trade mission generated a good deal of interest from Hong Kong entrepreneurs and overseas franchisors,'' said C. P. Law, assistant marketing manager of joint organisers Adsale Exhibition Services. ''The franchising market is very suitable for Hong Kong because many Hong Kong people want to start their own business with a certain amount of money but they do not know how to do it. ''The franchisor will provide you with all the proven methods of doing business and [their] knowledge.'' While growth in franchising will initially come from overseas franchises being imported into the territory, in the long term, Hong Kong is likely to develop its own home-grown franchise names. These will then be exported to China, and possibly elsewhere around the world. The list of exhibitors for Franchising '93 covers a wide scope, comprising: laundry services, retail stores, educational products and services, restaurants and printing and sign-making.