When the search for a symbol for the Indian rupee finally came to an end a few days ago, it wasn't only winner D Udaya Kumar, a doctoral research student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, who was rejoicing.
An entire nation celebrated his victory.
Brand experts say the story of finding a symbol for the Indian rupee is not Udaya's alone, it is also about capturing the myriad aspirations of over a billion people.
"That is because you have something tangible now, something that you can conjure up in your mind when you think of the Indian rupee," says Ravi Deshpande, chairman & chief creative officer of Contract Advertising.
"That is powerful enough. Not many currencies have such an option. We do. I think that is great," he says.
To Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer at Bangalore-based Harish Bijoor Consults, the new rupee symbol "announces the arrival of the country on the platform of developed nations".
"I am not saying we are developed, but we are getting there. The symbol indicates the process of transition we are making from developing to developed. That is key. The India story has been well documented, our economic prowess has been proved especially at a time when many others were faltering. We needed a symbol to convey that, of a resurgent India that has strong cultural roots. The symbol does justice to that. It is the brand ambassador of the country."
Both Bijoor and Deshpande believe the amalgamation of the Devanagari 'Ra' and Roman letter 'R' with strikethrough lines to represent the Indian flag has just the right balance of Indian and international.
"Conceptually, the design is perfect," says Deshpande, an art director by profession. "I have nothing to complain about it."
Ironically, it wasn't Udaya alone who used a combination of ‘Ra’ and ‘R’ when the designing the rupee symbol.
Two more finalists, Shahrukh J Irani and Hitesh Padmashali, both creative directors at ad agencies Publicis and JWT respectively also did the same.
But, as Padmashali points out, the jurors opted for Udaya’s symbol.
"In my view, there is no better way to capture the Indian ethos and yet be internationally appealing," says Padmashali.
This point is corroborated by Irani.
" I think it is a beautiful way of fusing India and Bharat. I did it in a certain way, Udaya did it in a certain other way. It worked for him."
This fusion of India and Bharat,of the "old with the new", is what makes the symbol appealing, say brand experts.
"The last time," says Viren Razdan, managing director, Interbrand India, "we saw something like this was when the Incredible India campaign was conceived in 2002. It brought India firmly onto the world tourism map. People abroad began taking India seriously as a tourist destination. The theory that India was a land of snake charmers alone was debunked once and for all. There was clearly more to India."
The current rupee symbol, says Razdan, adds an economic element to India's diverse cultural heritage.
"It conveys the message that we are firmly set on the path to economic prosperity. The symbol is strong and stable and has a character of its own. Imagine the impact it will have on foreign investors once usage gains ground," he says.
But there are voices of dissent as well.
Anmol Dhar, managing director, Superbrands India, and chairperson, Superbrands India Council, says that for the rupee symbol to work as a powerful global identity of Brand India, it has to backed by prudent fiscal measures apart from steps taken to eradicate poverty and corruption.
"If the cultural identity of India is unique, which reflects in the symbol giving it a distinctly Indian as well as international appeal, the fact remains that there is another side to India which is also disturbing. Issues of poverty alleviation, putting infrastructure in place, tackling corruption will have to be addressed seriously. In my view the rupee symbol can actually act as rallying point for this."
Says Harsh Mariwala, chairman & managing director of fast moving consumer goods major, Marico.
"The rupee symbol is important, no doubt. But the effort has to be backed by other initiatives such as the full convertibility of the rupee etc. Only then will it be relevant. In my view, the real test begins now, of reinforcing usage, backing it up with allied efforts etc. This will take time."