Case on Indian Railway

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Monopoly of Indian Railways : IIM Case Study
By: Yogin Vora on May 13, 200922 Comments

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In economics, a monopoly (from the Latin word monopolium – Greek language monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a product or service. Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods.

Monopoly should be distinguished from monopsony, in which there is only one buyer of the product or service; it should also, strictly, be distinguished from the (similar) phenomenon of a cartel. In a monopoly a single firm is the sole provider of a product or service; in a cartel a centralized institution is set up to partially coordinate the actions of several independent providers (which is a form of oligopoly).

Primary characteristics of a monopoly

Single Sellers

A pure monopoly is an industry in which a single firm is the sole producer of a good or the sole provider of a service. This is usually caused by barriers to entry.

No Close Substitutes

The product or service is unique in ways which go beyond brand identity, and cannot be easily replaced (a monopoly on water from a certain spring, sold under a certain brand name, is not a true monopoly; neither is Coca-Cola, even though it is differentiated from its competition in flavor).

Price Maker

In a pure monopoly a single firm controls the total supply of the whole industry and is able to exert a significant degree of control over the price, by changing the quantity supplied (an example of this would be the situation of Viagra before competing drugs emerged). In subtotal monopolies (for example diamonds or petroleum at present) a single organization controls enough of the supply that even if it limits the quantity, or raises prices, the other suppliers will be unable to make up the difference and take significant amounts of market share.

Blocked Entry

The reason a pure monopolist has no competitors is that certain barriers keep would-be competitors from entering the market. Depending upon the form of the monopoly these barriers can be economic, technological, legal (e.g. copyrights, patents), violent (competing businesses are shut down by force), or of some other type of barrier that completely prevents other firms from entering the market.

Price setting for unregulated monopolies

Price setting for unregulated monopolies

In economics a company is said to have monopoly power if it faces a downward sloping demand curve (see supply and demand). This is in contrast to a price taker that faces a horizontal demand curve. A price taker cannot choose the price that they sell at, since if they set it above the equilibrium price, they will sell none, and if they set it below the equilibrium price, they will have an infinite number of buyers (and be making less money than they could if they sold at the equilibrium price). In contrast, a business with monopoly power can choose the price they want to sell at. If they set it higher, they sell less. If they set it lower, they sell more.

In most real markets with claims, falling demand associated with a price increase is due partly to losing customers to other sellers and partly to customers who are no longer willing or able to buy the product. In a pure monopoly market, only the latter effect is at work, and so, particularly for inflexible commodities such as medical care, the drop in units sold as prices rise may be much less dramatic than one might expect.

If a monopoly can only set one price it will set it where marginal cost (MC) equals marginal revenue (MR) as seen on the diagram on the right. This can be seen on a big supply and demand diagram for many criticism of monopoly. This will be at the quantity Qm; and at the price Pm. This is above the competitive...
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