Finding a good doctor at a good price for elective health care like cosmetic surgery is not easy in China (not that it's all that easy in any other country, for that matter).
For one thing, China is a very big place. For another, this relatively new market has become fragmented in the process of growing rapidly and haphazardly with no centralized source of information or control.
Elective medical services in China include things like routine dental check-ups and annual physicals not covered by government health plans but also luxury services like LASIK eye surgery, and, of course, plastic surgery.
Even though cosmetic services are heavily marketed via television, brochures, and billboards, performing a systematic search and comparison of the best doctors in a given specialty can seem an impossible task, much like comparing travel and hotel information in the days before the Internet.
Now there's help for the Chinese consumer searching for quality and value. It's a new website called Meiloo, a nonsense word that seems to be play on the Chinese "meile," which means "happy and beautiful."
Using Meiloo, consumers can research dentists, doctors, and surgeons and book appointments and even surgery online. Meiloo takes a 15% commission on services scheduled from its website.
Transactions are growing at a rate of 15-25% per month but so far make up only a tiny fraction of the overall market. With just over 300 clinics and 1,000 doctors signed up as participants, Meiloo's database is very far from comprehensive, and most consumers in China remain totally unaware of the project.
In the past 12 months, Meiloo logged only about $1 million in transactions, but the concept is sound, the demographics are unbeatable, and at least a few savvy investors seem to be very aware of this. Already at $10 billion a year and growing, the market for elective medical and surgical services is set to blast off with the Chinese economy.
While some help with funding has already come from both European and American "angels," rumor has it that the company may soon be in talks with venture capital firms in California's Silicon Valley.
You can check out meillo.com just as long as you can decipher Chinese characters. At present, there is no translation into English or other Asian languages.