Indian Economy today is the fourth largest economy in the world and is expected to overtake Japan by 2012 to become the third largest. The second largest economy, China is in that position artificially by keeping its Yuan exchange rate artificially lower to make its exports cheaper and hence is flooding the world markets predominantly Europe, US and India.
However artificially maintaining a lower exchange rate would cause inflation in that country since being able to export in bulk would mean easy availability of local currency which would cause price rise. More money = more purchase = increased demand = price rise = inflation! And China is already experiencing this effect and is getting prepared to loosen its grip on its currency. Even the international community is demanding that China allow its currency to appreciate because no country can tolerate its markets being flooded from outside by cheap goods.
If China relaxes its currency as is being demanded by the international community, then Indian currency which is not controlled like the Chinese currency can continue to surge ahead and so would Indian GDP because the Chinese exports would then go down since their exports would no longer be cheaper with an appreciated Yuan, and this gives India a good chance to move on to the second largest GDP in the world only after United States, and this is predicted to happen sometime around 2020.
Given all this information, the government of India has finally realized that the Indian Currency Rupee needs a brand symbol too, just like dollar, pound, euro, yen etc. As of now Rupee is denoted by Rs and does not have a symbol of its own.
And so, the ministry of Finance of the Government of India had announced an open competition in 2009 to design a currency symbol for Rupee with the guidelines being that it should represent the cultural and historical ethos of India. Note that Russia has been trying ever since early 1990s to find a brand symbol to its currency Rouble and till today there has been no consensus on which one to choose!
Ok, what does a currency symbol mean? Well it represents the entire health of the country’s economy and if the country’s economy clicks, then it would become the monetary brand of the country worldwide, just like how $ represents the economic strength of United States. When more than a billion people ie 1/6 of humanity are using this currency, it makes only more sense to have a computer keyboard shortcut to it, doesn’t it?
So, a symbol representing would mean that we would be able to denote the currency in print format and digital format just like we say for instance 100 $.
But how easy is the task of implementing the currency symbol electronically?
First and foremost it needs to be digital friendly, in other words one should be able to easily design typefaces for it. The Euro symbol € was initially designed to be a logo and then was decided to become the symbol of the new unified European Currency. It had drawn criticism from Graphic designers for not being technically considered initially about how to display the Euro symbol digitally and how to display it in normal graphic language, the original Euro symbol was considered to be very wide for display (it shouldn’t be wider than the width of zero 0) if it were to fit in say columns of the accounting reports.
Then the symbol should be easy to write and draw, in the business of making money nobody would want to sit and draw a complex drawing every time they want to write down the currency symbol, and again it shouldn’t be too messy with thick or multiple lines making the symbol not recognizable on smaller font sizes.
Finally, once the symbol is decided all the next releases of the software worldwide, especially the operating systems, character encoding specifications, browsers, keyboards all should be updated to include the new currency symbol. This was a very challenging task for Euro and it has largely succeeded thanks to the entire European continent, and in the case of India, initially at least a billion people will get it due to its inclusion in the keyboards and software sold in India. Software and hardware makers are always at competition to be the first to include support for something new and widely used, which is good for something like a new currency symbol.
So what is the currency symbol for the Indian Rupee? Well, the committee formed to select the winning design comprises of members from the Central Bank of India – RBI, art institutes like National Institute of Design, Lalit Kala, Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, Indira Gandhi National Centre – are all set to announce the winning design soon.
Below is a chart containing some of the top entries received. Remember that the designer of the winning entry will find a permanent place in the books of General Knowledge, Wikipedia etc (and of course a cash prices of 2.5 Lakh Rupees)!
My favorite symbol in the chart below is the last one in the second row, the one by Arvind. Its simple to draw, has the traditional Indianness in it, and yet looks trendy for modern business, can uniquely represent the currency brand, can be easily styled in different fonts since devanagari font varieties are already in place. Which is your favorite pick?
Which one would you choose? According to media reports, 5 entries are said to be shortlisted from the above list (See Below).
If the media reports are correct, then one of the above would make it to become the brand ambassador of Indian Currency. But there are also controversies surrounding the final picks like the designers listed as finalists have said that the media reports do not contain their designs! If the above list is accurate, then I would go with item 4 in this list, even though the second entry looks similar to #4. What would be your choice?
Of the 3331 entries received by the panel for selecting the symbol, one is going to make it. Let us wait and watch which one would be that :)