India launches rupee symbol as economy booms

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The Independent Online

India unveiled Thursday a symbol for its rupee currency that it hopes will become as globally recognised as signs for the dollar, the yen, the pound and the euro.

Ministers made their final decision at a cabinet meeting after examining a shortlist of five designs inspired by the letter "R" in the Roman alphabet and "Ra" from the ancient Devanagari script used in Hindi.

"This establishes the arrival of the Indian currency as a robust currency on an international platform and I think every Indian should be proud about it," Ambika Soni, the minister for information, told reporters.

"Some of us in the cabinet tried to write it out and it is not difficult at all," she said.

The rupee is currently referred to by the abbreviations "Rs", "Re" or "INR", though it remains uncertain whether the new symbol will be widely taken up.

Udaya Kumar, a post-graduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology, submitted the design which beat 3,000 other entries in a national competition to win a cash prize of 250,000 rupees (5,350 dollars).

"The guidelines asked us to incorporate Indian culture and traditions, and be suitable for computer keyboards," he told the NDTV news channel. "My design has a horizontal line which also makes the tricolour of the Indian flag."

The government plans to introduce the symbol on computers shortly and to have it in regular international use within two years.

India's economy has experienced rapid growth since liberalisation reforms in the early 1990s reduced controls on foreign trade and investment, and the country is widely forecast to become a global superpower.

The Indian government predicts the economy will grow by 8.5 percent this fiscal year and should hit double-digit expansion within five years.

Residents in the Indian capital New Delhi welcomed the new symbol.

"This is the first time I am seeing it, and it looks good," Muskan Dhawan, a 22-year-old student, told AFP in Connaught Place, a shopping area in the centre of the city.

"As an Indian I feel proud that we are doing this for our economy to be recognised abroad," she said.

Other locals said it reminded them of the euro sign, and predicted it would soon catch on.

"I haven't heard of it before, but as an accountant I think I will have to use it a lot," said Menu Kumar, 24.

In India's financial capital Mumbai, Ritika Mankar, an economist with investment banking group Execution Noble described the symbol as unique and easily identifiable.

"The test will come if and when we get it on our computer key boards," she said.