HYDERABAD: When the swanky Rajiv Gandhi International airport came up in March, 2008 at Shamshabad, real estate wasn’t the only sector that soared. Hyderabad’s mid-sized health centres offering infertility treatment also surfaced on the world surrogacy map, with direct flights to the city being an enabling , while commercial surrogacy was legalised in India in 2002, the surrogacy scene in Hyderabad started picking up only over the last two years, with many couples from across the globe landing in the city, seeking wombs. Until a couple of years ago, childless couples from abroad were heading either to Gujarat or India’s two most connected cities – Delhi and Mumbai. The presence of embassies in the two major cities also cases started spilling over to Hyderabad with packed infertility centres in Mumbai and Delhi unable to meet the growing demand, and the presence of a modern airport in Hyderabad helped the surge in demand has largely been facilitated by agencies working in various parts of the globe showcasing India as the safest destination to rent a womb and get a child, at a reasonable price. Three reasons why people started looking east for surrogacy – top quality equipment, favorable pricing and hassle-free procedure, wherein the surrogate mother would not surface to claim the child. Most importantly, India is the only country apart from US where surrogacy is legal and unlike US, it’s affordable too.Cashing in on these factors are agencies that have come up not just in US and UK but also in Israel, Spain and Turkey that have contacted specialists in India. Among the agencies directing couples to Hyderabad include, Planet Hospital, which has tied up with city-based Kiran Infertility Centre and helps ironing out the creases that a journey to India may entail.Among the first agencies to have come up was Planet Hospital that showcased India’s medical tourism option to clients abroad. Their services are priced between $40,000 to $ 60,000 which includes air fare, hotel stay and the cost of the medical procedure including the surrogate mother’s fee, which is in the range of Rs 3 to Rs 4 lakh.While the widespread notion that India’s surrogacy industry is worth $ 500 million, city doctors correct the figure stating that it is only about 10-20 per cent of that amount. About 500 people seek surrogates every year in the country and spend an average amount of $30,000, including medical cost, they explain. While Hyderabad may still not be the first choice of destination in most cases, it is picking up.”Hyderabad has an international airport, so better connectivity. It has five star hotels and sight-seeing options, along with good doctors and good infertility centres,” says Dr Samit Sekhar, embryologist with Kiran Infertility increasing numbers notwithstanding, doctors say it is not yet the boom period for surrogacy in Hyderabad. Dr Roya Rozati, who heads Maternal Health & Research Trust, says that finding surrogate mothers in Hyderabad is not as easy. “Our society is different from Gujarati society. We are still very conservative,” she says.Nevertheless, registered medical practitioners from surrounding city areas contact infertility specialists with details of potential surrogate mothers. Some women wanting to rent their wombs have also uploaded their profiles on the internet giving a brief description of their age, health, height and weight indicating they are fit to carry babies for couplesWhile these women, carrying babies of other couples, are taken care of by the hospital, a few now promote family surrogates. This, say observers, is to counter rights activists who believe the trend is turning women in India into baby factories. Clearly, an interesting chapter in the country’s medical tourism story.