As one of the centre’s of India’s economic explosion, it’s little surprise that Mumbai should also bear the title ‘the boob job capital of India.’ Nowhere in the nation is the emphasis so much on physical perfection, nor the entertainment industry so prolific. Young actors and actresses arrive in the city every day, desperate to gain a toehold in Bollywood. And of these thousands only a tiny fraction who possess not only the right acting and vocal skills, but also the right physical attributes, will ever get the chance to see their dream realised. For many of those, working humdrum jobs while they wait for their break. plastic surgery offers the promise of a better chance of that elusive break.
It is not only for this reason, however, that the plastic surgery industry has taken off in Mumbai with such popularity. As of 2011, the UK decision to add VAT on plastic surgery (comically dubbed the ‘boob tax’ by industry professionals) has made the cost for such procedures simply out of reach for many Europeans. For that reason, India’s growing medical tourism industry has evolved to fill the gap. While India’s medical tourism industry is the 5th largest in the world already, industry analysts point out that within that it’s the cosmetic surgery specialists who are advancing at the fastest rate. While the exact figures of inbound visitors visiting India specifically in search of cosmetic procedures is unclear, estimates range from 10,000-100,000 inbound a year. And some estimates say the value of the market in India is about US$ 25 million.
“The average dentist in the United Kingdom is not qualified for advanced cosmetic procedures,” says Dr. Mukul Dabholkar, a Bandra-based dentist. “A full mouth rehabilitation with bridgework, crowns and laminates there would cost approximately Rs 20 lakh (US$39,000). In India, this will cost Rs 6.5 lakh (US$12,600) with dentists of better caliber.
Maximum City: From Bollywood starts to medical tourists
Intensely populated, fast paced Mumbai is both one of the most quintessentially Indian cities as well as the one which is quickest to adopt Western trends. It’s the Hollywood of India, a cosmopolitan melting pot where image is everything. Mumbai-based cosmetic surgeon Dr. Sudhav Kolkani, who has been in this field for almost two decades, is fairly clear about Mumbai’s status as India’s cosmetic surgery capital. ‘Before one might have considered Chennai a competitor,’ he told us. ‘They also have a well developed medical tourism industry. Mumbai’s position as the entertainment capital has made it a natural home for the cosmetic surgery industry here, however, and it’s now vastly outground Chennai as the place to come for these procedures. We have some world class surgeons here and of course our rates are highly competitive.’
Elena Prousskaia, a female plastic surgeon based in the UK, has also noticed the evolution of the industry in India. ‘Since my travelling fellowship at Ganga hospital in Coimbatore, I had noticed a remarkable surge in the amount of Indian clinics offering aesthetic and reconstructive surgeries aimed specifically at the medical tourism market’ he comments. In many ways this is exciting but I would caution that this industry is still relatively unregulated in India so although there are some fantastic surgeons in place, one would also need to be very sure of the quality of the treatment before booking from abroad.’
Sumitra Sen: A Cosmetic Pioneer
‘It must be said,’ says talent scout Rakhi Sengupta, ‘that it was Sushmita Sen who won the first Miss Universe title for India who must be credited with smashing the boundaries around cosmetic surgery for women here. After she announced that she had undergone augmentation, scores of others began to follow suit. Bipasha Basu, Shilpa Shetty, Sridevi and Koena Mitra, to name a few. And of course this has also marked the beginnings of a cultural shift in the whole way the industry is perceived over here. We’re some way off America, where in certain circles it’s now positively normal to have a boob job. But the stigma has at least begun to recede. Women just want to be comfortable in their own skin and we must support them in that journey.’