In 2008, the Indian Government hinted about the possible creation of Rupee’s new symbol which had excited the public. Now 2 years later, when people had possibly accepted that it was merely a joke, the Indian Currency (Indian Rupee) has finally joined the elite club of currencies, which currently has the US dollar, British pound sterling, Euro and Japanese yen, making it the 5th currency in the world to have a clear distinguishing identity.
This article covers the importance of symbol as highlighted by the government, how we zeroed-in on this symbol, what it means, where will we see the new symbol and how long will the transformation take. Additionally, this article also covers why the government decided to use the symbol now, what this symbol means for Brand India and how it would have to be achieved.
Why a symbol?
The symbol has been created to recognise the increasing economic linkages between India and the world and to further highlight the strength and robustness of the Indian economy as a favoured destination for global investments. The symbol reflects and captures Indian ethos and culture. It standardises the expression of Indian rupee in different languages. It also distinguishes the Indian currency from those countries whose currencies are also designated as rupee or rupiah, such as Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
How did we get this symbol?
The symbol was chosen from a public competition announced in 2009 and after several rounds of selection of those symbols the cabinet finalised 5 symbols.The selection was based on the decision of a jury headed by Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Usha Thorat. The Symbol which finally chosen was the creation of IIT post-graduate D Udaya Kumar.
What does this symbol mean?
The winning entry from IIT Bombay student D Udaya Kumar is a blend of ‘Ra’ in Devanagri script and ‘R’ in Roman. Two parallel lines crossing this ‘Ra’ or ‘R’ denote the symbol “is equal to” one Indian rupee. It also denotes the stability of the economy. The design is based on the tricolour, with two lines at the top and white space in between.
Where will the new symbol be seen?
- Replaces the Rs, Re, INR that is used at present.
- Will NOT be used on currency notes and coins.
- For Indian Market, the Keyboards will have the rupee symbol to facilitate ease of use.
- For External market, the IT companies will have to incorporate the symbol in their operative software to enable the computer users worldwide to use the symbol even if it is not embedded on the keyboards. (This will be on the lines of Euro symbol, which is not embedded on the keyboards used in India).
How long will this process take?
It Could take up to 24 months for the complete shift as the government will use the time for its incorporation in the Unicode Standard, International standard ISO, Indian Script Code for Information Interchange (ISCII: The ISCII specifies various codes for Indian languages for processing on computers along with keyboard layouts).
The Brand, The Vision
Understanding why the symbol is required now, more than ever before or why not in the future, is of great importance. It is about rebranding the Indian currency to showcase itself as a more stable player in the world economics. The economic recession two years back, which nearly swallowed the ‘developed’ countries, brought out a different impression of Indian economy which stunned quite a lot worldwide. We were one of those few nations who maintained a positive economic growth throughout the recession. Though, yes, the public were hit, they did feel the global meltdown, but the effects were less destructive than the ‘developed’ world.
The value of a currency and its exchange rate are symbols of the country’s strength and stability as a nation, both political and economic. This branding effort is aimed at burnishing the reputation of the country’s overall economy, not just the currency. The global capital market has begun to acknowledge the strength of Indian rupee representing a trillion dollar economy, a nation of one billion people and a GDP growth rate of 9 percent per annum. Today, India is among the top economies in the world in terms of purchasing power parity and is possibly the second-fastest growing economy. This gives a fair chance for the Indian currency to establish itself as a currency of choice for the international community. The extent to which the symbol will gain international usage and cache is or extreme importance. Experts see this as an important branding opportunity for the wider Indian economy among international investors. Hence, creating a symbol for the rupee at this junction will help this cause and enhance the image of the Indian currency.
The symbol is being envisioned as a brand ambassador to the Indian economy for the world but the actual power of this rebranding exercise is yet to materialise. It also remains to be seen if the new symbol will make any impact to the strength of the currency. Yes, the world will, for sure, see this rebranding exercise as India’s high ambitions and this is set to interest many global players. Also, Yuan’s devaluation by the Chinese has proved helpful for India by keeping it away from the centre stage. But India cannot continue to suppress the strength of rupee which has been deliberately done to help Indian exports grow. In fact, rupee was quite strong against dollar till late 1990s. As late as 1990, one dollar was only Rs.17.50. Only in 1998, it crossed the 40 to a dollar mark. This raises an obvious question – Does India really want to strengthen rupee against the other elite currencies? or is this the sign that India is ready to strengthen its currency again?. Only time will reveal the answer to these questions.
Visualising if the symbol will actually be able to live through the thick and thins is another point to be considered. The Euro, which is about 8 and half years old, still remains intact despite the current economic turbulence in the Euro zone. The spirit of the sign, crossed by two parallel lines, certify the stability of the currency. This provides evidence that a rebranding attempt – the new symbol – has the potential to survive through a meltdown, if it were to occur, though it would certainly require being thrifty with the resources.
Selling the brand
This rebranding exercise highlights India as a growing economy, a confident economy and a large economy. But, it has to be kept in mind that brands are a promise of superior performance or excellence that forms a set of associations in people’s minds. Thus, India has to be clear about what the underlying brand promise is. It is important that India understand what it wants to convey and there is some underlying basis behind it. India cannot claim to be a First World nation when the majority of its people live in Third- and Fifth-World conditions. It has to demonstrate that it delivers the underlying promise, failing which it will only come back to bite us.
The first task is to sell it within India. States have already been told to promote the new currency symbol at large. What remains to be done is promotion through multimedia – TV, Mobile Networks, Internet – all will have to be utilized to their full potential to achieve this.
A grand event can be held for unveiling the brand with the prime minister doing the honours, as he is the best-recognized economist. There should also be global road shows at major financial centres. We might also come across campaigns titled ‘I value my rupee.’
India may also utilize the Commonwealth Games 2010 to achieve this brand promotion.
In all, this rebranding would act as a powerful force that will drive the India Vision 2020.
In June, the inflation reached 10.6 percent, piling on to double digit rates in May (10.2) and April (11.2). Street protests had erupted over rising food prices that have burdened some three-quarters of Indians who still live on less than Rs.100. To get a handle on the problem, India’s central bank had raised interest rates three times since March. This double digit inflation, experts feel, is the soft underbelly of this new symbol. Meanwhile, experts countering this state that India uses a different set of metrics to report inflation than the rest of the world. Using metrics common in the US, inflation will come out to around 4.5 percent for the second quarter of this year. Though, when asked about the food inflation they believe that the situation has indeed shocked them but they still consider that there is no overall inflation problem.
The Indian rupee is trying to associate itself with the top four or five currencies and thus illustrate its power in world economics. The brand created has to be sold properly, both to Indians and the world. The rebranding reflects the bigger ambition of India. The new India showing immense confidence in itself – the confidence that anything can be achieved. It wasn’t there 20 years ago. A while ago, India was compared with South Korea and China. We don’t talk about South Korea any more. We also don’t compare India with China any more. India is India.
I talked about some of the points which may play a major role in deciding the outcome of the re-branding of Indian currency. It is also evident by many examples in the past that not everything gives the outcome as was planned before executing it. In this case, the symbol will definitely receive a huge fanfare in India. But the success of this move will be determined by it’s acceptance in the Global arena.
I gave my points supporting this ambition on the whole. Do leave your opinion about this move and whether or not you support this and what you think may be the other factors which may decide the success of this re-branding attempt.