Definition, Examples and Features of Oligopoly in the economy or the market.
What is Oligopoly – This is a market form with limited competition in which a few producers control the majority of the market share and typically produce similar or homogenous products. Oligopoly is a market structure in which a small number of firms has the large majority of market share.
Oligopolistic competition can give rise to both wide-ranging and diverse outcomes. In some situations, particular companies may employ restrictive trade practices (collusion, market sharing etc.) in order to raise inflate prices and restrict production in much the same way that a monopoly does. Whenever there is a formal agreement for such collusion, between companies that usually compete with one another, this practice is known as a cartel. A prime example of such a cartel is OPEC, which has a profound influence on the international price of oil.
Features of Oligopoly
The features of Oligopoly includes the following;
- large firms. The exact number of firms is not defined. Each firm produces a significant portion of the total output. There exists severe competition among different firms and each firm try to manipulate both prices and volume of production to outsmart each other. For example, the market for automobiles in India is an oligopolist structure as there are only few producers of automobiles.
The number of the firms is so small that an action by any one firm is likely to affect the rival firms. So, every firm keeps a close watch on the activities of rival firms.
- Interdependence: Firms under oligopoly are interdependent. Interdependence means that actions of one firm affect the actions of other firms. A firm considers the action and reaction of the rival firms while determining its price and output levels. A change in output or price by one firm evokes reaction from other firms operating in the market.
For example, market for cars in India is dominated by few firms (Maruti, Tata, Hyundai, Ford, Honda, etc.). A change by any one firm (say, Tata) in any of its vehicle (say, Indica) will induce other firms (say, Maruti, Hyundai, etc.) to make changes in their respective vehicles.
- Non-Price Competition: Under oligopoly, firms are in a position to influence the prices. However, they try to avoid price competition for the fear of price war. They follow the policy of price rigidity. Price rigidity refers to a situation in which price tends to stay fixed irrespective of changes in demand and supply conditions. Firms use other methods like advertising, better services to customers, etc. to compete with each other.
If a firm tries to reduce the price, the rivals will also react by reducing their prices. However, if it tries to raise the price, other firms might not do so. It will lead to loss of customers for the firm, which intended to raise the price. So, firms prefer non- price competition instead of price competition.
- Barriers to Entry of Firms: The main reason for few firms under oligopoly is the barriers, which prevent entry of new firms into the industry. Patents, requirement of large capital, control over crucial raw materials, etc, are some of the reasons, which prevent new firms from entering into industry. Only those firms enter into the industry which is able to cross these barriers. As a result, firms can earn abnormal profits in the long run.
- Role of Selling Costs: Due to severe competition ‘and interdependence of the firms, various sales promotion techniques are used to promote sales of the product. Advertisement is in full swing under oligopoly, and many a times advertisement can become a matter of life-and-death. A firm under oligopoly relies more on non-price competition.
Selling costs are more important under oligopoly than under monopolistic competition.
Oligopoly example are;
In Nigeria, markets for automobiles, cement, steel, aluminium, etc, are the examples of oligopolistic market. In all these markets, there are few firms for each particular product.
DUOPOLY is a special case of oligopoly, in which there are exactly two sellers. Under duopoly, it is assumed that the product sold by the two firms is homogeneous and there is no substitute for it. Examples where two companies control a large proportion of a market are: (i) Pepsi and Coca-Cola in the soft drink market; (ii) Airbus and Boeing in the commercial large jet aircraft market; (iii) Intel and AMD in the consumer desktop computer microprocessor market.
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