Difference between WPI and CPI

Inflation and Its Measurement:

Inflation signifies the increase in prices of everyday goods and services, affecting the cost of living. 

It reflects a decrease in the purchasing power of a nation's currency and can impact economic growth, with mild inflation being necessary for a healthy economy.

Inflation Measurement in India:

In India, two primary indices are used to measure inflation: the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI). These indices serve different purposes:

Wholesale Price Index (WPI):

  • It tracks price variations of products sold in bulk by wholesale businesses to other enterprises.
  • It is published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It is widely used in India to gauge inflation.
  • It is criticized for not representing the prices that the general public pays.
  • The new base year as updated in 2017 is 2011-12.

Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • It assesses price fluctuations from the perspective of a retail buyer.
  • It is published by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • It measures price changes in goods and services bought by Indian consumers, including food, medical care, education, and more.
  • CPI is categorized into different types, including CPI for Industrial Workers (IW), Agricultural Laborers (AL), Rural Laborers (RL), and Urban/Rural/Combined.
  • The base year for CPI is 2012, and the CPI-IW is used for labor-related purposes.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) adopted CPI as its primary measure of inflation in April 2014.

Key Differences:

  • WPI measures inflation at the production level, while CPI measures it at the consumer level.
  • WPI does not consider changes in service prices, while CPI covers a broader range of goods and services.
  • WPI assigns greater importance to manufactured items, while CPI places more emphasis on food products.

These indices are crucial tools for understanding and managing inflation in India, with CPI being particularly significant for the Reserve Bank of India and monetary policy decisions.



Using the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) as the sole indicator for measuring inflation in the Indian economy presents several challenges and limitations:

  • Limited Representation: WPI primarily focuses on tracking the prices of goods at the wholesale level. This doesn't reflect the actual prices paid by consumers, as most people purchase items at retail prices. This limitation can lead to a mismatch between the inflation experienced by the average citizen and the inflation indicated by WPI.
  • Goods-Centric: WPI places a significant emphasis on manufactured goods. It gives less weight to services, which have become an increasingly vital component of the modern Indian economy. Neglecting the services sector can result in an incomplete picture of inflation.
  • Commodity Bias: WPI is heavily influenced by volatile global commodity prices, such as oil and metals. These global factors can distort the domestic inflation rate, causing the index to be less representative of the actual economic conditions in India.
  • Lack of Consumer Perspective: Since WPI is a producer-level index, it doesn't consider the consumer's viewpoint. It doesn't factor in the prices of essential consumer items like food, education, healthcare, and housing, which have a more direct impact on people's daily lives.
  • Change in Consumption Patterns: People's consumption patterns change over time, and their spending habits evolve. WPI doesn't always reflect these changes adequately, making it less responsive to shifts in consumer behavior.
  • WPI's Weighting Structure: The weight assigned to different commodities in the WPI may not correspond accurately to the average household's spending. For example, it might give too much weight to items that consumers buy infrequently.
  • Policy Decisions: When the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) relied on WPI as the primary measure of inflation, it occasionally made policy decisions that didn't align with the actual inflation experienced by consumers. This could lead to less effective economic policies.
  • Wholesale and Retail Price Divergence: There can be substantial differences between wholesale and retail prices, especially when it comes to perishable goods. Using WPI alone might not capture these price differentials.


Way forward:

  • Emphasize CPI as the Primary Measure: Continue to prioritize the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the primary measure of inflation. It provides a more consumer-centric and comprehensive view of price changes that directly affect the public.
  • Improve Data Quality: Invest in data collection, accuracy, and timeliness for both CPI and Wholesale Price Index (WPI). High-quality data is crucial for informed policy decisions and economic analysis.
  • Review and Update Weights: Periodically review and update the weighting structure of the CPI to ensure it accurately reflects changes in consumer spending patterns. This will enhance the index's representativeness.
  • Broaden CPI Categories: Expand the CPI categories to include a wider range of goods and services that people consume, considering the evolving preferences and needs of the population.
  • Reduce Dependency on WPI: While WPI can still provide valuable information about production costs and supply-side pressures, its use as a primary indicator for policy decisions should be further reduced.
  • Incorporate Seasonal and Regional Variations: Recognize and account for seasonal and regional variations in prices within the CPI to provide a more precise understanding of inflation across different parts of the country.
  • Monitor Core Inflation: Focus on core inflation measures, which exclude volatile elements like food and energy, to get a clearer picture of underlying inflation trends.
  • Enhance Public Awareness: Educate the public about inflation measures and their significance in economic decision-making. Transparent communication can help the public better understand the impact of inflation on their daily lives.
  • Global Economic Factors: Acknowledge the impact of global economic factors on domestic inflation and consider these in policymaking, especially when it comes to commodity prices that influence WPI.
  • Technology Integration: Leverage technology to improve data collection and analysis. Explore the use of big data and digital tools to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of measuring inflation.
  • Interagency Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between different government agencies responsible for compiling and publishing inflation data, ensuring consistency and data integrity.


India's shift from the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the primary measure of inflation marks a positive and essential transition. This change aims to provide a more accurate reflection of inflation experienced by the public. To ensure success, continuous improvements in data quality, weighting structures, and public awareness are vital. India must also consider global and regional factors, leverage technology, and foster interagency collaboration. Aligning monetary policy with CPI data will lead to more precise economic decision-making, ensuring economic stability and the well-being of its citizens. This shift represents a significant step toward a more consumer-focused understanding of the economy.

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