Internet firm Zhongtopia aims to bring financial relief to needy Chinese patients

Internet company to use small sum deposits raised from subscribers to cover medical expenses of underprivileged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 10:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 10:28pm

Zhongtopia, an internet company backed by private equity firm China Science & Merchants Investment, is planning to set up a huge fundraising platform that will help cover the medical treatment expenses of underprivileged people on the mainland.

Eric Qiao, chief executive of the firm, expressed confidence that the platform would have multibillion-yuan assets at its disposal to cater to the requirements of the needy in China. “Even if ordinary people make small-sum deposits of 10 yuan (HK$11.25) each, we can create a massive funding base,” he said. Such a platform would also alleviate social concerns triggered by the growing exodus of migrant workers to urban areas for jobs.

“We are trying to create a new commercial model to help those who are ignored by the current financial system,” Qiao told the South China Morning Post. “The rising popularity of mobile internet will help us to serve millions of people at minimal cost.”

Zhongtopia, a term evolving from Utopia, reflects the company’s attempt to create an online community or society that can cater to the medical needs of the needy. Since its inception in July this year, the online platform has drawn nearly 4 million users with each individual making a deposit of 10 yuan. A participant in the scheme can receive up to 300,000 yuan to cover his medical expenses. A total of 111 serious diseases such as cancer and leukaemia are covered by the scheme.

We are not a charity organisation. We hope to make profits in the future to support our businesses, but we want to build infrastructure now
Eric Qiao, chief executive of Zhongtopia

Qiao said that Zhongtopia expects to have 100 million depositors in the next three years.

Unlike most of the mainland’s internet-based firms that target the rising middle class, Zhongtopia is among the few technology firms that is targeting the poor.

China Science & Merchants with US$10 billion capital under management is one of the country’s most powerful investment groups, which focuses on life science, manufacturing and retail.

Beijing has been striving to reform its medical system as part of efforts to improve people’s health conditions and ease financial burden on those who suffer serious diseases.

Zhongtopia believes its crowd-funding programme can play a complementary role in the reform with millions of underprivileged people being the beneficiaries.

“We are not a charity organisation,” said Qiao. “We hope to make profits in the future to support our businesses, but we want to build infrastructure now.”

Charging a management fee on the participants or offering other health-care services could be the two options for Zhongtopia to pursue profits, Qiao said.

“If it were to attract 100 million users, it would become a promising online platform to explore the potential of the medical service sector,” said Wang Feng, chairman of Shanghai-based Ye Lang Capital. “Zhongtopia is a typical example of how internet technologies can widely benefit the masses of people.”

China’s leadership is strongly advocating the so-called Internet Plus strategy to conduct a transition of the world’s second-largest economy into a new pattern driven by entrepreneurship and consumption.

“Without the fast-growing mobile internet, it’s impossible to create the business,” Qiao said, adding that the disruptive technologies helped reduce the operational costs and become affordable to millions of depositors.