Web facilitates barter trade in Asia

Times may be tough, but they're yielding resourcefulness. With the local economy dragging, some companies are turning to barter as an alternative to cash transactions.

In turn, there are companies, such as Hong Kong-based Pacific Barter Company (PBC), that have been set up to facilitate these transactions, and they're looking to the Net as a means to disseminate information on the availability of goods and services.

Barter trade is based on a simple premise. Members of PBC's trade exchange sell their goods and services to other members in exchange for trade dollars that are worth an equivalent amount in cash dollars. With each transaction processed by PBC, these trade dollars are transferred from the buyer's account to the seller's account. The seller can then use these trade dollars to purchase goods and services from other member companies.

PBC relies on the Internet to help facilitate this process.

From its Web site (http://www.barterasia.com/), PBC allows member companies to access an online database of goods and services available for barter, said Brian Hodgson, managing director of PBC.

This year, PBC expects to see a trading volume of about $US1 million worth of goods and services being bartered between member companies, said Hodgson. On average, trades conducted by PBC members are worth around $US20,000, he added.

While many small companies may require the services of a Web consultant to help with building their Web site, PBC decided to move ahead on its own and developed its Web site in-house.

The company, which has a staff of just four, designed and built its Web site using Microsoft FrontPage, Hodgson said.

While PBC was comfortable building its own Web page, the company turned to a local Internet service provider (ISP) to host the site, he said.

While members cannot yet complete barter transactions over PBC's Web site, the company is looking at offering this service at some point in the future, Hodgson said. For now, member companies are able to see what's available and can find out how to contact other members, he added.

The Web has been an important tool to help PBC build its business, Hodgson said. Besides serving as a way to share information, building a Web site has also helped PBC to promote itself to potential members, he said.

The company's first Web site (http://www2.netvigator.com/fina/barter/pbc/index.html/) helped PBC to build a base of member companies, in part by offering a promotion that waived the membership fee for subscribers of local ISP Netvigator, Hodgson said.

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