The Making of the Indian Rupee Symbol

Unlike other large economies, India took centuries to design a currency sign of its own. Was it worth the wait?

GettyImages-815826574 Indian Rupee Symbol
Mumbai, India July 15, 2010: D Udaya Kumar, IIT post-graduate, whose design has been approved as the symbol of the Indian rupee, photographed at IIT Bombay campus. (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint via Getty Images)

Sneha Mehta


April 25, 2024


12 min

In August 2005, Nondita Correa Mehrotra was at Kuala Lumpur airport when she spotted a currency exchange booth displaying the symbols for the dollar, pound, euro, and yen. An unremarkable feature at most airports, the kiosk reminded Mehrotra, an architect at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), of a question she often mulled over: why didn’t the Indian rupee have its own symbol? 

“I used to get upset about the number of ways we write the rupee abbreviation in English,” said Mehrotra. “[An accountant would] use ‘Rs,’ or he’d add a full stop after ‘Rs,’ or not use ‘Rs’ at all. It was so messy. We don’t have this confusion with the dollar or pound sign.”

Mehrotra took matters into her own hands. On her flight to Mumbai, she sketched out a symbol for the rupee, using the Devanagari letter for “R” and two horizontal lines through the middle, similar to the euro. She sent her proposal to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s federal bank, and the Prime Minister’s Office. When she didn’t hear back, Mehrotra assumed the idea was lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. It wasn’t. Four years later, in 2009, her proposal inspired a nationwide design contest. But 15 years after its launch, has the rupee symbol made a difference?

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