Friday, Jul 16, 2010
Mumbai: Once upon a time, we had no money. Many have called this our animal phase. Then, we came up with currencies. And then much later, we complemented some of them with symbols. As the number of countries grew, so did the number of currencies. And this phenomenon kept strengthening as trade leapfrogged across seas and continents to assume its current transnational dimension. But not all national currencies have symbols today. And not all those that do, attract significant attention, globally speaking. The keyboard on which this is being typed boasts only one currency sign—$. And this fact speaks volumes even if it does not negate the need to consider an alternative global reserve currency. It’s against this backdrop that we comment on the Indian government’s decision to formalise a symbol for the Indian Rupee. How about RS, Rs, INR, etc? Those are only abbreviations. Why do we need a currency symbol? This is sort of like questioning the need for a national flag or emblem or song. These are all symbolic players in global communication; to become integrated in the latter, it helps to have all the former. It’s a question of vision.
Note that the finance ministry announced a public competition for the rupee’s symbol design at a time when the the currency was going through a low ebb. Barclays Capital had said it could drop to 56 against the dollar. Also, there was talk of the euro—the most modern and wide-ranging currency experiment—becoming the new dollar. A year on, the rupee is hovering at a healthy 46 to a dollar, and the euro is in the doldrums. Symbols of both the euro and dollar reflect investments in continuity and aspirations of stability. On both criteria, IIT post-graduate D Udaya Kumar’s winning design is a winner indeed (artists may carry on an aesthetics debate). Whether it will become popular and even ubiquitous will depend on how strongly our economy performs. If India’s GDP and trade volumes keep growing impressively, then people will fall over each other to update keyboards, fix price tags, mobile pads, trading tickers and so on accordingly. It will also help if the rupee is allowed greater internationalisation. As of now, as RBI has noted, almost the entire bulk of international trade in India continues to be denominated in the dollar.
Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010
Apropos of the edit ‘More than a symbol’ (FE, July 16), the new logo is a right step towards creating a distinct brand identity of the rupee in the international markets. The logo is apt—both symbolically and aesthetically—but will need modifications in standard computer keyboards for popularising its use. Now, a mass campaign by the government is needed to make the common man and rural masses aware of the new symbol.
JS Broca, New Delhi