What does life in an Indian city cost?

It’s pretty cheap to buy jeans and shoes in India compared with the world, but not nearly so if you want a beer or an iPhone


As expensive as a movie ticket in a multiplex may seem in India, it is still among the cheapest in the world. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
As expensive as a movie ticket in a multiplex may seem in India, it is still among the cheapest in the world. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: While measures of food prices and rent provide a reasonably accurate picture of the cost of survival in cities, there are other aspects of day-to-day living—such as going out for a drink or a movie, or buying a pair of jeans—that add more colour to the picture.

A report by Deutsche Bank Research has measured the cost of these other aspects of urban life across 20 countries and 33 cities, and has found that the Indian cities in the sample—Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru —are among the cheapest.

In dollar terms, it is the among the cheapest to buy a two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola in the Indian cities, but not nearly as cheap to buy 500ml of beer at a neighbourhood pub. Even taking into account the fact that the pubs surveyed were all in expat areas to create some sort of parity across countries, a price of $2.9-3.4 per 500ml of beer is significantly higher than in the cheapest cities.

The Big Mac Index, created by The Economist as a rough and ready alternative to purchasing power parity, places India among the cheapest countries in the world. The caveat here is that we do not have the Big Mac—the alternative, the Maharaja Mac, is far cheaper to make due to cheaper ingredients.

India is among the five cheapest countries in the study when it comes to purchasing jeans and shoes, although it is noteworthy that shoes cost the same in India as they do in the US. As any smoker in India will testify, cigarettes are far from cheap here, costing up to $3.2 for a pack of Marlboros. But smoking here is still much cheaper than in Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps surprisingly, India bucks this overall trend when it comes to the iPhone. India is among the five most expensive places in the world to buy Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6—the cheapest are the US, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore.

Urban life usually comes with an element of going out for fun. As expensive as a movie ticket in a multiplex may seem in India, it is still among the cheapest in the world. This holds true for the room rent in a 5-star hotel as well. Interestingly for couples on shoe-string budgets, a cheap date—comprising fast food, a movie and a couple of beers—is indeed quite cheap in India compared with the world.

Finally, an important aspect of urban life is transport. Taxis and other forms of public transportation are pretty cheap in India’s biggest cities, which is a blessing for commuters as the price of petrol is not.

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