Rupee Gets a Symbol

frank-holmesIndia’s rupee is now in an exclusive club – it joins Japan, Britain, the European Union and the U.S. as the only currencies to have globally recognized symbols.

The new symbol, shown in the picture, came out of a contest held by the Indian government that attracted more than 3,000 entries. A student at the Indian Institute of Technology was the winner.

Along with its role in global commerce, the new symbol will standardize currency communication across India, where 15 languages are commonly spoken. The government also hopes the symbol will set it apart from other countries with currencies of the same name, among them Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The rupee symbol combines ancient Hindi script with the letter R. The parallel horizontal lines at the top are a reference to the Indian flag and to the nation’s efforts to promote equality among its people.

India’s $1.2 trillion economy is the 10th largest in the world. That wealth, however, is not spread evenly among its people. The country ranks 139th in per-capita income, and some 450 million people – 40 percent of the population – live below the poverty line.

As bad as this number is, it used to be much worse: 90 percent of Indians were below the poverty line in 1980.

But if India is to meet the high expectations many have for it, it has to aim much higher than just the poverty line. The government must have effective policies to build much-needed infrastructure and stimulate the growth of India’s middle class.

This is the strategy that worked for China, and we think it could work for India as well.