ECONOMY: Honey, our money has an ID – Rupee gets symbol, keyboard wait starts – the Indian Rupee with an International Slash ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
July 15: The Union cabinet today gave the rupee a new symbol — only the fifth currency in the world to acquire a distinctive identity.
The symbol — created by D. Udaya Kumar, who teaches at IIT Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre and is about to join Guwahati IIT — blends the Roman letter R without its stem with the Devnagari script’s Ra.
Kumar’s symbol won after a contest that had whittled the final shortlist to five symbols from the 3,000 that made the cut. The contest carried a prize of Rs 2.5 lakh.
“My design is based on the Tricolour with two lines at the top and white space in between. I wanted the symbol for the rupee to represent the Indian flag,” said Udaya Kumar, who hails from Chennai.
But as one wag said: “It rather looks like a seahorse with a newspaper tucked under its arm.”
Like the British pound, the yen and the Euro, the eventual winner has two horizontal lines that slash across the central figure — a stylistic device that currency designers believe connotes stability, a characteristic that the Indian currency sorely lacks.
Over the past five years, the rupee has swung wildly between Rs 38.50 and Rs 48.80 against the American greenback, raising concerns about its volatility.
The symbol for the rupee — one of the oldest currencies in the world that traces its origin back to silver coins first minted in the 6th century BC — is unlikely to figure on currency notes and coins. It will also not be a usable symbol on computer keyboards just yet. It may take up to six months before the symbol is used throughout the country after the Bureau of India Standards notifies it as a keyboard standard.
The new symbol will have to be accepted by the Unicode Consortium’s Unicode Technical Committee — a process that could take anywhere between 18 months to two years — before it can hope to gain international acceptance.
Once accepted, it will stand clear from the clutter of currencies that call themselves the rupee or the rupiah. A number of Asian countries terms their currencies as the rupee or its variant.
Officials hope that in time, the rupee — which was first issued as a coin in a standard format by Afghan king Sher Shah Suri in the early 16th century — will join the Chinese yuan and the Russian rouble in an expanded basket of reserve currencies that the world freely trades.
The next step for the Indian government will be to approach the Unicode Consortium for approvals. Officials said the formal proposal could be made by October.
Once the Unicode consortium accepts the symbol, a combination of assigned keyboard characters will need to be typed before the symbol pops up on the computer screen.
“From a technical point of view, it is not a major challenge… operating systems (in computers) already have the ability to create currency symbols. Once industry gets approval from Unicode, it can roll out the new symbol in a few months,” said Vishnu R. Dusad, CEO and MD, Nucleus Software.
Computer firms expect the government to soon mandate that they include the rupee symbol on any keyboard manufactured or sold in India.
The government will soon direct Nasscom, the national association of software companies, to approach IT firms to embed the symbol in their operating software as a new programme or as an update. This will enable computer users worldwide to use the symbol even if it is not embedded on the keyboards.