Joy Kang is the Co-founder and CEO of Eunogo – a virtual coordinator to get the best beauty and wellness treatments for the premium medical beauty travel experience in Korea.
Human Asia spoke to Joy recently.
Firstly, it is an interesting name, EUNOGO. What is the meaning behind the name?
Joy: Eunogo is pronounced as You-know-Go – or “you know where to go” and comes from a Greek word “Eunoia” meaning beautiful thinking and mind. We want Eunogo to be the go-to-place for people seeking premium beauty and wellness experience.
Everybody knows that the Korean beauty industry – in particular cosmetics surgery – is very popular worldwide. Tell us a bit more about the current global demand for Korean beauty services especially in your target country, Singapore.
Joy: I agree that South Korea is becoming the beauty capital of the world especially with regards to beauty procedures. Although our company is based in Singapore and South Korea, our clients come from all over the world including Southeast Asia, North America, Europe and Middle East. Southeast Asia makes up about 40%. Many of our clients travel for the purpose of plastic surgery or stem cell banking to Korea or they seek for non-invasive beauty treatments as an experience while they are traveling in Seoul. Increasing number of people view beauty treatment as a must-do-thing while traveling to Korea.
Can you tell us more about your typical customer, and the demographics of your customers generally?
Joy: Eunogo is a digital marketplace. Although our company is based in Singapore and South Korea, our clients from Singapore only make up about 30%. The rest of our clients include expats community in South Korea as well as people from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, France, Italy, USA, and Brazil. I am thrilled to share more about our clientele because they are a very interesting group of people. It is difficult to precisely describe where they are actually from. For example, one of our VIP clients is Chinese but has lived in Singapore for the last 15 years and a Caucasian Swedish lady working in Shanghai and a Chinese-Singaporean businessman who travels to Seoul every month. They travel frequently or are sometimes based across two or three countries. Our typical clientele is very internationally savvy, enthusiastic, obviously very much into beauty and healthcare and willing to invest in themselves.
How does EUNOGO provide value to these customers? Why can’t customers go directly to the Korean service providers?
Joy: First, there is a selection challenge. There are over 2000 plastic surgery clinics in Korea, making it very difficult for people to decide. Utilizing Korean government’s open medical data, Eunogo uses a rigid 40-item screening criteria to preselect the right medical partners and check ‘behind the scenes’ repuation of doctors, including which celebrities visited which doctors, or if the clinic covered up accidents or complaints. Basically we curate the right surgeon for Eunogo members to ensure the highest quality.
Second, there is a communication problem. Especially when it comes to medical, its very important that doctors and patients are well communicated but not many doctors speak foreign languages fluently. So we match with a trained medical coordinator in the client’s own language to solve that problem. Clients feel much more comfortable when they visit a clinic with a personal coordinator from their side. It is like having a local Korean friend who has expertise and network in medical aesthetics on your side.
Finally, Eunogo offers price transparency. There has been some old practice of charging foreigners unfair price. We want to change that market practice by providing transparent pricing. I wouldn’t say Eunogo connects with the cheapest medical service providers because we think the priority should be on quality and safety. We provide the best quality over price.
Overall, our clients say their experience with Eunogo is much better than if they go directly to the clinics. Better experience meaning, less waiting time, better service quality, aftercare, complimentary benefit, and private transfer for clinic visits for those who undergo surgery. Thanks to my co-founder, Sophia, Eunogo maintains a very strong relationship with Korean service providers and customers are likely to be treated better as Eunogo members than walk-in customers.
How big is the potential market for this business and how do you plan to capture or increase that market share?
Joy: Beauty and wellness market is limitless. More and more people will invest in their health and beauty. We started in Korea and then expanded into Singapore. We plan on listing more beauty and wellness destinations in Asia including Thailand and Malaysia in the future. My co-founder and I envision Eunogo as the most trusted digital marketplace for premium beauty and wellness experience in Asia.
Joy, tell us more about yourself, your family background, and your professional background before starting EUNOGO.
Joy: I was born in Seoul, Korea and grew up both in the US and Korea. I started my career as a management consultant in Seoul for about four years and decided that I needed a change so I jumped into social entrepreneurship in Peru at an international NGO for about a year. Then I did my MBA at Insead in France and Singapore in 2013 where I came up with the initial idea of Eunogo. I eventually started Eunogo in 2015 with my co-founder Sophia who was then working as a head of marketing at a famous medical aesthetic clinic. Speaking of my family background, my dad is a physician and I often discuss things with him especially about shaping our patient experience at Eunogo. He has always been my mentor in life and career and a source of wisdom.
Why move into entrepreneurship from the lucrative career of a management consultant?
Joy: I actually have never thought of starting my own business when I was a consultant. Though my consulting career made me learn that “advisory” is not the career I wanted to do ultimately, and that “executing the strategy” was way more exciting for me. During business school, I thought of the idea of running a business myself but I was scared. Timothy Bovard, one of my favorite professors who is also a successful serial entrepreneur himself once told us, “Entrepreneurship is a phenomenal way to express yourself, your talents, your passion, and bring you countless satisfaction. It is not the easiest path by far, nor is it the most direct path, since many of us fail momentarily along the way. But you have everything you need to succeed in the end”. I took his advice to my heart and when I had the business idea and right team to build Eunogo, I knew that this was my time and ventured into the opportunity.
Why Singapore, and what advantage does Singapore have over other cities in the region when starting a startup venture?
Joy: When you want to build a premium brand or product that targets wealthy customers, Singapore is where you want to be in Southeast Asia. Singapore is also one of the top ranked countries in the world for ease of doing business. The process of setting up our business was very efficient, fast and smooth even as a foreigner. It is an expensive city though to run a business with only about 5 million population. Culturally, Singapore is a well mix of diverse nationalities, ethnics and cultures, which I love about. I meet so many interesting people here.
What is your passion in life and what drives you forward day-in day-out?
Joy: I love trying beauty treatments myself. When I go to Seoul every month or so, I try out some new treatments. It’s fascinating how new machines and treatments are coming out of the market all the time. Running Eunogo in that sense is a perfect job for me. I also love exploring new cities or countries. Traveling gives me sensations and inspirations for new ideas and new ways of thinking.
Final advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Joy: Learn from others’ success and failure but always make decisions for yourself.
You can visit Eunogo at https://eunogo.com/
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