India seeks elite status with new currency symbol for the rupee

currency symbols rendered in gold, dollar sign measured with calipers

A new currency symbol for the Indian rupee is a statement of India's intent to become a major player in world financial markets. Brooks Elliot/Flickr photo.

The arcane subject of currency symbols became a hot topic Thursday when India announced that it will implement a unique symbol for the Indian Rupee in world financial markets. Until now, there has been no currency symbol for the Indian rupee, just the abbreviation Rs, Re, or INR. India’s Union Cabinet is expected to finalize the new currency symbol, a cross between the Roman letter R and its Hindi equivalent with a double slash, on June 24. Implementing the new rupee symbol, based on recent history with the new Euro symbol, may take a few years and cost billions of dollars.

New currency symbol marks the rise of the Rupee

India, the second largest democracy in the world, was lacking a unique currency symbol in world financial markets. The Deccan Chronicle reports that the new rupee symbol is the winner of a design competition to create a currency symbol representing the historical and cultural ethos of India. Indian officials said the new rupee symbol will end the confusion in world financial markets resulting from the use of abbreviated Rs as currency symbols by neighboring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Giving the rupee a distinct identity will also make it more easily tradeable in the west as India aspires to become a financial superpower.

Indian government seeking elite status

Until now unique currency symbols existing only for the U.S. dollar, European Euro, British Pound, and Japanese Yen. The BBC reports that with its new rupee symbol, the Indian government is declaring itself a member in this elite class of world economies. A panel of artists, officials and bankers picked the new rupee symbol design from as many as 36,000 entries in the contest. The winner was submitted by design teacher at the Indian Institute of Technology. He received Rs 2.5 lakh in prize money, about $5,350.

Euro symbol introduction cost billions

Experts say implementing a new currency symbol is an expensive process. Suite 101 reports that it is extremely difficult to design because it involves rigorous testing across a wide range of technical applications like the web, banners, and mobile phones. Plus, it needs to be adaptable to computer keyboards and a large investment is required to print a new banknote design. The BBC article said according to one estimate, when the Euro symbol was introduced in 1999 it cost Europe’s biggest companies more than $50 billion to update their computer systems to deal with the changeover.

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