THE depreciation of the rupee that has blunted outbound travel from India has given the country an edge in the inbound medical tourism sector, where medical procedures are now even cheaper than before.
An Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) study has revealed that inbound medical tourists have shot up by 40 per cent over the last six months, with New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai emerging as front runners for this market.
S Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM, said in a statement that the weakened rupee has made complex surgeries 35 to 45 per cent cheaper for patients from the Middle East, Africa and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries.
According to the study, a medical procedure that would have cost US$10,000 in 2012 is now priced US$7,000. Tourists paying in Australian dollars pay 45 per cent less today, while prices are 30 per cent cheaper than before when paid in euros.
RN Banerjee, consultant at the New Delhi-based Longfield management, which facilitates medical tourism, said: “Indian medical care is as good as anywhere in the world and was already cheap – some as much as 60 to 80 per cent less – compared to countries like the UK, the US and Singapore.
“Now the treatment packages are immensely more attractive and we are getting medical tourists even from the UK and US who wish to spend less and do not wish to wait or queue for surgeries in the UK’s National Health Service.”
He added that for countries in Africa, the Middle East and south Asia without good medical treatment, India was the “obvious” choice, providing “immediate attention, fluency in English and internationally accredited hospitals”.
Devi Shetty, founder and chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya as well as cardiac surgeon, commented: “(India’s) greatest asset is our ability to produce the largest number of technically-skilled individuals. We also have the highest number of US Food and Drugs Administration-approved drug manufacturing outside the US.”
A separate Yes Bank-Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry study has projected medical tourist numbers in India to hit four million by 2015, with a yearly growth rate of 71 per cent.