Our Bureau

New Delhi, May 15

IF the concept of `bids' conjures up a picture of tenders-driven staid Government bidding, that picture may soon undergo a drastic transformation with consumer-driven bidding set to enter the realm of consumer services as well.

In the last few years, consumers have got used to nabbing the best deals by bidding for airline tickets, mobile phones, hotel services, audio cassettes and so on. You can now add one more item to the list and the most important - your health. The latest to join the bidding bandwagon is medical services. So, for example, if you want to go in for a MRI scan you can start bidding at a price of Rs 1,500 and in the process get a deal much lesser than the market price of Rs 6,000.

This innovative idea has been started by a Hyderabad-based company aptly named Doctor Munnabhai 24 x 7, which claims that consumers can now get an MRI scan that will not leave a hole in their pocket.

The company has already tied up with reputed hospitals and diagnostic centres in Hyderabad and Bangalore, including Apollo, Narayana Hrudayalaya, Manipal, and Care for the concept.

The idea is that that if airline companies can offer a discount through bids on unutilised seats, why can't healthcare providers do the same for unutilised time of hospital beds, medical testing equipment and doctors. The company has set up a full-fledged call centre where consumers can call in to register their bid.

Consumers have the option of participating in an auction that starts at Re 1 or they can put in a bid through which, the company claims, the consumer can save up to 50 per cent.

The concept may hold immense promise given the success of consumer bidding ventures have had in the past and the sharp rise in healthcare costs. For instance, ebay.in (formerly baazee.com) already has more than a million registered users on its site and auctions a plethora of products ranging from electronics to apparel to music online. In fact, the site has a list of over 1,500 product categories.

The bidding concept has been a big hit with the airline industry as well with Sahara Airlines and Indian Airlines seeing significant number of ticket sales through the bidding route. In fact, Sahara added the concept to its in-flight experience with on-board bidding for various products.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 16, 2005)
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