What is Retail Inflation? Factors & Measures in India (UPSC)

Retail inflation is a significant topic that often appears in the UPSC exam. Aspirants preparing for this prestigious examination must possess a thorough understanding of various economic indicators, including inflation, which plays a pivotal role in shaping a nation’s economy. In this article, we will delve into the concept of retail inflation, its measurement, the factors influencing it, and its implications for the Indian economy. So, let’s get started!

What is Retail Inflation?

Retail inflation, also known as consumer price index (CPI) inflation, refers to the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services rises, leading to a decrease in the purchasing power of a currency. It measures the changes in the prices of a basket of goods and services consumed by households.

Measurement of Retail Inflation

The retail inflation rate is calculated by comparing the current prices of goods and services with their prices during a particular base year. In India, the retail inflation rate is primarily measured using two indices:

  1. Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW)
  2. Consumer Price Index for Urban Non-Manual Employees (CPI-UNME)

The CPI-IW reflects changes in prices faced by industrial workers, while the CPI-UNME focuses on urban non-manual employees. Both indices take into account a wide range of essential commodities such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, and healthcare.

Factors Influencing Retail Inflation

Several factors contribute to retail inflation. Some of the key determinants include:

  1. Demand and Supply: When demand exceeds supply, prices tend to rise, leading to inflationary pressure. Similarly, if the supply of goods and services is limited, it can result in cost-push inflation.
  2. Money Supply: An increase in the money supply without a corresponding increase in production can lead to inflation as more money chases the same amount of goods and services.
  3. Government Policies: Government policies such as taxes, subsidies, and regulations can impact prices and inflation. For example, an increase in indirect taxes can push up prices, leading to inflation.
  4. International Factors: Global events like changes in crude oil prices, exchange rates, and international commodity prices can influence domestic inflation.

Government Measures to Control Retail Inflation

The government and the central bank undertake various measures to control this inflation. Some common steps include:

  1. Monetary Policy: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) uses monetary policy tools like repo rate, cash reserve ratio (CRR), and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) to manage inflation.
  2. Fiscal Policy: The government uses fiscal measures like taxation and public expenditure to control inflation.
  3. Supply-Side Measures: The government takes initiatives to increase the supply of essential goods and services to curb inflation.
  4. Price Control: The government may impose price controls on essential commodities to prevent excessive price rises.


Retail inflation is an essential economic concept that UPSC aspirants should grasp to succeed in the examination. It is crucial to understand the measurement, factors influencing inflation, and its implications for the Indian economy. By acquiring a comprehensive understanding of retail inflation, aspirants will be better equipped to analyze and interpret economic trends and policies, ultimately enhancing their chances of success in the UPSC exam.

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Vikramjit Singh, founder of Newscoop, an esteemed UPSC educational website, helps aspirants prepare for UPSC CSE with 5 years of experience, offering a deep understanding of crucial concepts.

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