Understanding Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Gain insights into Consumer Price Index, its impact on purchasing power, and economic policy. Navigate the complexities of CPI.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
3 min
28 March 2024

If you are interested in the world of finance, understanding key financial indicators is crucial for both individual financial planning and grasping the nation's economic health. Among these indicators, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stands out as a pivotal measure of inflation, directly impacting our daily lives through changes in the cost of living. Thus, understanding CPI’s meaning is vital.

In January 2024, the All-India Consumer Price Index Numbers for Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL) and Rural Labourers (CPI-RL), with a base year of 1986-87=100, witnessed a slight increase by 1 point, reaching 1258 and 1268 points respectively. This rise was primarily influenced by higher costs in the miscellaneous and fuel and light categories, including essential items like medicines, doctor fees, and household goods.

Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh led the indices for Agricultural and Rural Labourers, respectively, whereas Himachal Pradesh ranked lowest in both categories. Price fluctuations in food items, household goods, and utilities contributed to these shifts, reflecting a nuanced picture of inflation and living costs in rural India during this period. It is also worth looking into mutual funds which are designed to offer investors a diversified portfolio so as to hedge against inflation as indicated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For instance, Bajaj Finserv Mutual Funds offer a prudent investment choice, potentially counteracting inflationary pressures and preserving the investor's capital in real terms.

How is CPI Calculated?

At its core, the CPI represents the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The CPI formula calculation in India follows a systematic process:

  1. Selection of a market basket: The first step involves defining a basket of goods and services, reflecting the spending habits of the typical consumer.
  2. Price collection: Prices for these items are then collected regularly from various cities across the country.
  3. Weight assignment: Each item in the basket is assigned a weight, reflecting its importance or share in the average household's expenditure.
  4. Index calculation: The price of the basket in the current period is compared to the price of the basket in the base period, resulting in the CPI.

Consumer price index formula -

CPI = (Cost of market basket in a given year / Cost of market basket in base year) x 100

The above is the CPI formula.

For example, if the total price of the basket was Rs. 5,00,000 in the base year and Rs. 5,50,000 in the current year, the CPI would indicate a 10% increase in the cost of living over this period.

Importance of CPI

The CPI is more than just a measure of inflation; it's a critical economic tool that influences a wide array of financial decisions and policies:

  • Adjustment of income: Salaries, pensions, and social security benefits often adjust according to CPI figures to maintain purchasing power.
  • Policy making: Policymakers use CPI data to gauge inflation levels, making informed decisions regarding interest rates and monetary policies.

What is Core CPI?

Core CPI excludes volatile food and energy prices to provide a clearer view of underlying, long-term inflation trends. This measure is vital for policymakers and economists, offering a more stable inflation indicator that excludes items subject to external shocks and seasonal variability.

Add CPI vs core

Example for CPI

Uses of the Consumer Price Index

The CPI finds its application across various domains, including:

  • Inflation measurement: It's the most widely used indicator of inflation, reflecting the cost of living changes over time.
  • Economic analysis: Businesses, investors, and policymakers analyse CPI trends to make informed decisions.

Limitations of the Consumer Price Index

Despite its significance, the CPI has its limitations, such as:

  • Coverage: The CPI may not account for all out-of-pocket expenditures, missing some aspects of the cost of living.
  • Measurement Issues: Challenges like substitution bias, where consumers switch to cheaper alternatives as prices change, can affect the CPI's accuracy.


Understanding what is CPI is pivotal for navigating the complexities of the economy and making informed financial decisions. Whether you're a policy maker, investor, or just looking to understand more about how changes in the economy might affect you, grasping the fundamentals of the CPI is a crucial step in demystifying the economic indicators that shape our lives.

Frequently asked questions

What is CPI in India in 2020?

In 2020, India faced economic disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting the CPI figures. The CPI in India saw significant fluctuations, reflecting the impact of lockdowns and changes in consumer behaviour.

Which item has the highest weight in the Consumer Price Index?

Food and beverages typically hold the highest weight in the CPI basket, given their essential role in daily consumption and significant share in household expenditures.

What does the Consumer Price Index (CPI) represent in India?

The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, acts as a barometer for inflation within India, tracking the retail price movements of goods and services consumed by households

Who is responsible for publishing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in India?

The publication of CPI in India is primarily handled by the National Statistical Office (NSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

What implications does a rise in CPI have?

An upward movement in the CPI suggests an increase in consumer prices, signalling rising inflation. Conversely, a decline indicates falling consumer prices, pointing towards lower inflation or deflation.

Is it preferable to have a higher or lower CPI?

A lower CPI is indicative of low inflation, reflecting a scenario of price stability which is generally associated with a robust economic condition.

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