Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Indian contest for rupee symbol

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Indian rupee
The rupee is generally shortened to Rs or INR

The Indian finance ministry has begun a public competition to select a design for the symbol of the rupee.

Unlike the major currencies of the world like the dollar, the pound, the yen and the euro, the rupee does not have a globally recognised symbol.

The new symbol would be the "identity of the Indian currency," a finance ministry official told the BBC.

The contest, which closes on 15 April, is open only to resident Indians, a release on the ministry website says.

'Ethos of India'

The rupee is generally shortened to Rs or sometimes the currency is described as INR (Indian rupee).

But, the government says, these are not symbols, they are mere abbreviations for rupee.

To get an internationally-accepted symbol, the finance ministry has invited entries from the public.

"The symbol should represent the historical and cultural ethos of India," the deputy secretary in the finance ministry's coin and currency department, BS Rawat, told the BBC.

"The entries can be in any of the Indian languages. They can even be in English which is also an accepted language of use by the government," Mr Rawat said.

Each entry has to be accompanied by a fee of 500 rupees ($10) and a participant can send a maximum of two entries.

The rules also say that the "symbol should be applicable to the standard [computer] keyboard".

Officials say the winning entry will be chosen by a seven-member jury of experts drawn from various art institutes, the government and India's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India.

Five shortlisted entries for the final selection will be awarded a prize of 25,000 rupees ($500) and the winner will take 250,000 rupees ($5,000).

"The final selected symbol will become the property of the government and the designer will have no rights over it any more," Mr Rawat said.

Experts say implementing a new currency symbol can be an expensive exercise.

According to one estimate, when the euro was introduced in 1999 it cost Europe's biggest companies more than $50bn to update their computer systems to deal with the changeover.

"We have not thought about the costs yet," Mr Rawat said. "First, we'll select a symbol and then we'll do the costing," he added.

The contest closes on 15 April at 1300 local time (0730G).

Detailed guidelines on how to prepare the entries have been put up on the finance ministry's website.

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