Big Indian cities are synonymous with high living costs, but Kolkata seems an exception to this rule. A lingering curiosity remains why Kolkata is so cheap compared to other metropolitan cities?
The primary reasons behind Kolkata being so cheap, include lower real estate prices, affordable local food available at decent prices, and comparatively low costs for services and products in a general sense. The low per capita income also helps maintain the local markets at inexpensive rates.
Want more insight? Read ahead as we delve further into why Kolkata is considered economical and how it manages to maintain its affordability.
Diving Into The Charm of Kolkata
Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta, is not just a city, but is often described as a feeling by those who have tasted its flavor. It is the capital city of West Bengal in India, situated on the eastern bank of River Hooghly. Known as the city of joy, Kolkata paints a vivid picture of Indian customs, traditions, and multicultural lifestyle that weaves their unique identity, helping it to stand apart from other metropolitan cities. This distinction is portrayed through its economic spectrum as well, making Kolkata one of the most affordable cities in India.
The Rich Cultural Tapestry
Renowned for its rich heritage and cultural diversity, Kolkata embraces everyone with style and sophistication. It’s a harmonious fusion of antiquity and modernity, as the historical colonial architecture jostles for space amidst the bustling urbanity.
The city’s affordable cost of living can be attributed to its diverse cultural fabric too. Every aspect of Kolkata, be it the age-old tram rides, or the affordable street food, reflects its economical charm. Here’s a comparison of meals from a local joint in Kolkata to those in other cities:
|Cost of Meal For Two (Local Restaurant/Cafeteria)
|₹300 – ₹500
|₹700 – ₹1000
|₹800 – ₹1200
|₹800 – ₹1500
The City’s Unique Identity
Each city has its unique identity, made up of its people, traditions, and ethos. Kolkata is no different. Fondly known as the ‘Cultural Capital of India’, the city is a fertile ground for art, literature, poetry, and theatre.
What makes Kolkata affordable is the value it places on its cultural wealth over and above material wealth. The city’s remarkably lower cost of living compared to other metros might be attributed to this. Apartments in Kolkata, for example, cost significantly less than those in Delhi or Mumbai.
|Average Cost per sq ft (Residential Apartment)
|₹4000 – ₹8000
|₹10000 – ₹25000
|₹8000 – ₹16000
The intellect-driven culture, simplistic lifestyle, and preference for public and shared transportation instead of private vehicles also contribute to Kolkata’s affordable living.
Breaking Down The Cost Of Living in Kolkata
Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is a vibrant and bustling city, rich in culture and history. An interesting aspect of this city is the affordability it offers residents and visitors alike.
Decoding Real Estate Prices
Residential property in Kolkata is considerably cheaper compared to other major Indian cities. While the average price for a home in Mumbai or Delhi could be upwards of Rs 10,000 per square foot, Kolkata offers similar spaces at a fraction of the cost, averaging around Rs 4,000 per square foot.
Lifestyle vs. Cost: The Kolkata Paradox
The lifestyle in Kolkata is an appealing puzzle. Despite the low prices, the city offers high quality and modern facilities. Residents or new settlers can enjoy lower rent or mortgage payments while still relishing their desired standard of living.
Finding Affordable Housing Opportunities
Areas like New Town, Rajarhat, and Salt Lake are among the most sought after, offering affordable and stylish accommodation. They are well connected with the rest of the city and equipped with the required amenities, making them perfect for families and individuals alike.
Food and Dining: A Delightful Surprise
Kolkata’s culinary scene is exciting and deliciously affordable. The city offers an eclectic mix of local Bengali cuisine and international flavours at unbeatable prices.
Street Food Culture: More For Less
Home to some of India’s best street food lanes, Kolkata is a paradise for foodies on a budget. Famous for its Puchkas (Pani Puris), rolls, and Mughlai Paranthas, the city offers vast gastronomical experiences with minimal strain on the pocket.
Unbeatable Restaurant Prices
Even the city’s fine dining scene is easy on the wallet. Restaurants offer diverse and high-quality food at very reasonable prices. For instance, a decent meal for two in Kolkata will cost around Rs 500 to Rs 600, substantially lower than in other metropolitan cities.
The Benefit of Public Transport
Public transportation in Kolkata is both highly efficient and amazingly affordable. From the iconic trams and yellow taxis to the city’s extensive bus and metro network, commuting is cost-effective and convenient. For instance, a regular bus ticket costs less than Rs 10, while the metro rates range from Rs 5 to Rs 25, making the daily commute devastatingly cheap.
Understanding Kolkata’s Economy
Understanding Kolkata’s economy can shed some light on why this historically rich city is considered to be so cheap compared to other Indian cities.
The Role of Industry and Commerce
Since the colonial times, Kolkata has been a major commercial and industrial hub of India. It was formerly known as the country’s industrial capital, as a significant number of India’s noteworthy businesses commenced operations here. However, the city’s industrial development has slowed down over time, which has resulted in lower average incomes and cost of living, compared to other major cities such as Mumbai or Delhi.
Today, the leading industries in Kolkata include steel, heavy engineering, mining, minerals, cement, pharmaceuticals, food processing, agriculture, electronics, and textiles. The city is also increasingly focusing on the growth of the Information Technology (IT) sector. But given the disparity in income levels, the cost of goods and services in the city is relatively low, making Kolkata affordable for its residents.
Impact of Education and Job Opportunities
Kolkata is also known as the ‘Cultural Capital of India’ for its thriving arts and literature scene and is home to many prestigious educational institutions. However, despite having a high literacy rate, the city lacks sufficient job opportunities, especially in the advanced sectors.
Many students, after graduating from universities in Kolkata, move to other cities in search of better job prospects. This brain drain essentially impacts the city’s average income levels negatively and further contributes to the low cost of living. Despite this, Kolkata is persistently working on improving employment opportunities in order to retain its educated workforce and boost the city’s overall income levels.
In conclusion, the low cost of living in Kolkata can be mainly attributed to its moderately paced industrial development and limited job opportunities leading to lower income levels as compared to other major Indian cities.
How Kolkata Stays Affordable Despite Rapid Development
The city of Kolkata, also known as the ‘City of Joy’, maintains a perfect balance of tradition and modernization, which directly affects the prices of commodities and cost of living in the city. Despite the rapid development in the city, its affordability aspect continues to attract more and more people to settle here. In this section, we shall explore how Kolkata manages to remain affordable amid the growing advancements.
The Right Balance of Tradition and Modernization
Kolkata has always embraced advancements while holding onto its traditions, giving it an unmatched charm. One of the main reasons why Kolkata is more affordable than other major Indian cities is that it perfectly balances tradition and modernization. The grand, old buildings in the city center coexist with modern, high-rise shopping malls and residential complexes.
The economies of tradition and modernization coexist here. The traditional sectors like jute, textiles, and food processing industries offer goods at more reasonable prices. Simultaneously, the modern sectors like IT and Finance introduce higher disposable incomes while attracting multinational corporations. This balance helps to keep the overall cost of living lower in Kolkata compared to other metropolitans.
Governance and Public Policy
Kolkata, being the capital city of West Bengal, reaps the benefits of sound governance and public policy. The Government of West Bengal has been pro-active in implementing policies that help to mitigate the ill effects of inflation, thereby ensuring that the costs of commodities don’t sky-rocket and remain within reach of the common man.
For instance, the state government heavily subsidizes the public transportation system like buses and trams, making commuting affordable for Kolkatans. The well-structured public distribution system effectively controls the price of essential commodities and the prices in government-run fair price shops are far lesser than those in the open market.
Moreover, Kolkata’s property prices are some of the most affordable among the major cities in India. The pragmatic housing policies of the government like the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBHIDCO) and others, have ensured the provision of low-cost housing in prime locations, making it one of the most affordable metropolitans for property seekers in India.
This sound governance and implementation of effective public policies in education, healthcare, housing, etc., have played a significant role in making Kolkata one of the most affordable cities in India.
The Kolkata Advantage: A Comparative Analysis
Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital city of West Bengal, an eastern state of India. Multiple factors contribute to making Kolkata more affordable compared to other metropolitan cities in India. In this section, we will explore “The Kolkata Advantage” by comparing its living costs with other Indian cities, and ultimately decode what this price gap signifies for the common man.
Kolkata Vs. Other Metropolises in India
In essence, the cost of living comprises several factors – housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous expenses. Here’s a comparative breakdown between Kolkata and other major Indian cities including – Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai.
|Average cost of Housing (₹)
|Average cost of Food (₹)
|Average Transportation cost (₹)
|Average Healthcare cost (₹)
|Miscellaneous Expenses (₹)
As evident from the table, Kolkata offers a significantly lower cost of living compared to other Indian Metropolises. The affordability extends from housing to transport to healthcare and other routine expenses as well.
What Does The Price Gap Mean For The Common Man?
The lower cost of living in Kolkata facilitates a better quality of life for the common man. It also encourages numerous individuals to start their entrepreneurial journey or kick-start their careers in the city. The lowered expenses for basic amenities provide an extra cushion to experiment and explore jobs or businesses, without the crushing pressure of high living costs.
Besides, it also implies that a significant amount, which would otherwise be spent on basic necessities, can now be potentially saved or invested for a secure future. Additionally, Kolkata’s affordability makes the city an attractive option for retirement, or for those who work freelance or remotely, thereby expanding its demographic diversity.
Living Cheap in Kolkata Without Compromising Quality of Life
The cost of living in Kolkata, despite being one of India’s largest cities, is surprisingly low. This is partly due to the affordable housing options, the low cost of both food and transportation, and the wide range of free, cheap, or community-funded entertainment options available to residents. You might be wondering how you can live cheap in Kolkata without compromising the quality of life. The secret lies in finding the value in entertainment and recreation and leveraging community initiatives.
Finding the Value in Entertainment and Recreation
Kolkata offers a multitude of affordable entertainment and recreation activities. A night out at a movie theatre, for example, can cost as little as ₹200 ($2.7) while local parks and gardens are free of charge. For art lovers, numerous galleries and exhibitions are frequently free or very inexpensive.
Also worth considering is the outdoor recreation that’s at your disposal in Kolkata. From long walks on the banks of Hooghly river and picnics in the Maidan, Kolkata offers plenty of cheap activities that can provide a much-needed break from your daily routine. Despite their affordable nature, all these activities allow you to immerse yourself in the city’s culture and enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle.
Saving More Through Community Initiatives
Moreover, Kolkata has a strong community spirit. There are numerous initiatives run by locals which can help you save more by providing free or reduced-cost resources. For instance, there are weekly farmer’s markets offering fresh produce at lower prices than supermarkets. These initiatives not only boost one’s finances but often provide stronger connections within the community, resulting in a richer quality of life.
Another way to save is by joining community groups or participating in local events. These are often subsidized by the government or run on a non-profit basis, meaning the cost to participate is minimal. Plus, joining these groups can be a great way to meet new people and fully integrate into the Kolkata community.
In conclusion, the combination of low living costs, a vibrant community, and a wealth of affordable entertainment makes Kolkata an extremely affordable city to live in without compromising on the quality of life.