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New rupee symbol reflects strength of economy

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Our Bureau

New Delhi, July 15

The Indian rupee will soon have a distinct and identifiable symbol that would reflect the strength of the over-trillion-dollar economy. The Indian currency will now join an exclusive club of international currencies — the US dollar, the British pound, the Japanese yen and the euro — that have their own symbols.

The new symbol, which is a blend of the Devanigiri ‘Ra' and roman ‘R', has been designed by Bombay IIT post-graduate Mr D. Udaya Kumar and approved by the Union Cabinet today. Mr Kumar's design was selected from amongst 3,000 entries received in a public competition. The entries were evaluated by a jury headed by the RBI Deputy Governor.

Showcasing strength

“It's a big statement on the Indian currency.. It would lend a distinctive character and identity to the currency and further highlight the strength and robustness of the Indian economy as also a favoured destination for global investments,” Ms Ambika Soni, Information & Broadcasting Minister, told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Ms Soni also said that the State Governments would be impressed upon to encourage the use of the new Rupee symbol and proactively promote its use. The symbol would better distinguish the Indian currency from those countries whose currencies are also designated as Rupee or Rupiah, such as Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, she added.

The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement that India's currency will now have a distinct identity that will be internationally recognised at par with other international currencies like dollar, pound and yen.

The symbol will not be embossed or printed on currency notes or coins. There will have to be changes to the software packages and keyboards to ensure widespread usage of the symbol.

Unicode standard

Software industry experts feel that adoption of the new rupee symbol could take up to 18-24 months. As a first step, the new symbol will have to be included in the Unicode standard — an international encoding scheme used to uniquely identify characters.

The symbol will also be included in the Indian standard – Indian script Code for Information Interchange (ISCII). The ISCII specifies various codes for Indian languages for processing on computers along with keyboard layouts.

Ms Soni said that the encoding of the symbol in Indian standards is likely to take about six months.

After encoding of the symbol in the Unicode Standard and National Standard, the Nasscom will approach software development companies for incorporating the rupee symbol in their 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. (much like the euro symbol, which is not embedded in the keyboards in use in India).

When contacted, a Microsoft spokesperson said that “Once the Unicode consortium gives its nod and vendors get notification of the same, we can include the new symbol in the next release”.

For incorporating the symbol in the keyboards to be manufactured in India, the Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology (MAIT) will ask its members to make changes in the production process after the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) notifies the symbol as the keyboard standard.

“Once the standards are frozen, it will take us one quarter to integrate the changes in the hardware”, said a spokesperson from HCL Infosystems, a computer maker.

A TVS Electronics official said that the company would just take a month to get the new keyboards ready (either through a new key or conversion of a functional key into a Rupee key).

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 16, 2010)
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