Lax rules governing fertility services in India are leading to a boom in medical tourism catering to foreign couples wanting a custom-order baby.
Advertisements openly solicit Indian women to sell their eggs to childless foreign couples, or become surrogate mothers.
"We are actively recruiting egg donors! Our patients are happy to pay generously for your generosity! They pay you up to rupees 40,000 ($800 US) every time you donate."
The in-vitro fertilization clinics then charge foreign couples up to $4,500, including medicines, to implant the embryos in the mother. Some clinics cost half that. "Nearly half of our patients come from overseas. Of them, nearly half are of Indian origin," said Aniruddha Malpani, whose IVF clinic in Mumbai is considered among the country's best.
The Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction says there are some 400 IVF clinics in the country, providing an estimated 30,000 assisted reproductive treatments a year.
Most egg donors are housewives paid between 6,000 and 40,000 rupees ($120 to $800), depending on their education level. Many are poor.
Critics like Puneet Bedi, a specialist in foetal medicine at New Delhi's Apollo hospital, say the absence of regulation poses health dangers, as well as ethical issues about "rent-a-womb" exploitation.
"This business is like any other outsourcing industry. The only difference is the treatment offered here is very poor. Doctors here take short cuts, they implant more embryos than needed which multiplies risk to the mother."
A draft bill on assisted reproduction is expected to be tabled in parliament soon, but women's health activists argue that it is aimed more at promoting a lucrative business than addressing health and ethical concerns.
Medical companies are offering deals that bundle health and travel services for foreigners, from arranging the medical visa to making clinic appointments to providing recuperation holidays.
Malpani said the industry can regulate itself and spread benefits to many. "It's a market economy. The bad doctors will be weeded out and benefits will trickle down to people in smaller towns."