Can we follow Indian numbering system for simplicity and good order?
For the sake of uniformity, simplicity and good order, it is desirable to follow the domestic system of numbering by all organisations that have a responsibility to report their financials to the Indian public at large
 
Though in India we use English language in all our business communications, in so far as writing of numbers is concerned, we mostly use the Indian system in our daily life. Even in our schools and colleges Indian systems of numbering is generally taught, and this is generally the norm in all financial reporting of facts and figures. However, as there appears to be no guidelines in this regard so far, we find that a few organisations and institutions still publish their statistics in English system, which might cause some amount of confusion while interpreting the figures, particularly if we are not well versed in the English system. 
 
For example, the exact way of writing Indian and English numbers is as under:  
 
 
The Indian numbering system is written differently and sounds differently too when it reaches six digits. The positioning of ‘coma’ in written form is slightly different between the two systems as seen above.
 
The Central Government publishes all its statistics in the Indian system in lakhs and crores, and in all its annual budgets too, the figures are mentioned as per the Indian system. All the public sector organisations publish their reports using only the Indian system of numbers, so also all the public and the private sector banks in the country.  
 
The Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) follows only the Indian system of numbers in all its statistical reports and other communications. Only while referring to the foreign investment flows and with regard to statistics relating global depository receipts (GDRs) and American depository receipts (ADRs), that they naturally refer to the English system of millions and billions, as it is stated in foreign currency, mostly in US dollars.
 
However, in the absence of clear cut guidelines from SEBI, some of the listed companies, particularly those having foreign parentage, publish their quarterly and annual reports using the English system of numbers, though majority of the companies use only the Indian system.
 
RBI is the lone exception:  
The only exception is Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which has been publishing most of its reports on banking statistics using only the English system with figures mentioned in millions and billions. Sometimes, we even see casual press releases and other communications of RBI mention the figures in the English system. The last annual report as on 30 June 2014 of RBI submitted to the Government contains most of the banking statistics in rupees but this is expressed using English system i.e. in millions and billions. This system of publishing the reports in English system may be derived from the British era as RBI was set up during the British rule.  In fact the first two Governors of RBI were British nationals. Sir Osborne Smith was the first Governor of RBI from 1 April 1935 to 30 June 1937 and was followed by Sir James Braid Taylor who continued as Governor till 17 February 1943. Possibly the English system of numbering started during their tenure is continuing even today in RBI, though all subsequent Governors of RBI are Indians. Sir CD Deshmukh was the first Indian Governor from 11 August 1943 to 30 June 1949.
 
However, almost all the banks both in the public and private sector publish their quarterly and annual reports using only the Indian system. 
 
Need to educate our children in both the numbering systems:
Recently, during the summer camp of high school children, one of the teachers asked questions on English numbering system, which many children were not aware of. It is not their fault as English system of writing numbers may not taught in most of the schools at present. But one of the parents is said to have commented that it was too much for children to learn so many different systems followed in different countries. Contradicting this, another parent is reported to have said that if our children can learn three languages from their early age, it should not be difficult for them to learn both the numbering systems simultaneously. 
 
With globalisation of Indian economy, there is ample scope for our people to participate in the global trade. In fact, it is estimated that India will have surplus manpower of four to five crores over the next decade, and India is expected to be the biggest supplier of workforce to the world in the coming years. It is, therefore, necessary for our youth to be prepared to tackle global challenges. Obviously, it is advantageous for our children to be equipped with certain amount of general knowledge on global finance at least at the post secondary level of education, if it is not done already.  
 
Standardising all reports under the Indian system is helpful for general public:
Notwithstanding what is stated above, in the interest of standardising all the statistical information and to maintain uniformity in financial communications, it is desirable that RBI too follows the Indian system in all its publications, particularly when the figures are in rupees, thereby making it easy and simple for the public to interpret the figures released by all institutions in our country. RBI, if it so desires, can always publish their reports in two separate formats, one using the Indian numbers for the Indian public and the other using the English numbers for the use of foreign Central banks, who might prefer to read in their own system.  
 
SEBI too may issue guidelines that all listed companies should publish their quarterly and annual reports using Indian system of numbers, though they are free to publish such reports in their own websites under both the Indian and English systems for the benefit of their foreign partners and investors, 
 
Though conversion from one system to another is quite easy, for the sake of uniformity, simplicity and good order, it is desirable to follow the Indian system of numbering by all organisations that have a responsibility to report their financial performance to the Indian public at large.
 
(The author is a financial analyst, writing for Moneylife under the pen-name ‘Gurpur’.)
Comments
Bapoo Malcolm
6 years ago
This would be going against the tide. In a global village, the western system must prevail. There too, the introduction of a comma instead of the dot, in referring to decimals, causes concern.

I grew up at the cusp of metrication. 1957. The old system was such a pain; something that one realised only when one started using the metric system. Not until then.

If we do not want to keep up with the world, in short join it, there will be demands for more Indian systems. The annas, paisas and pies system. Or further back to the kos, the tola, the tipri, and whatnot. Even the 'cotter' in liquor is 250 ccs. Hopefully!

No, sorry. We have to adapt. Or be left behind. Moreover, the western is more symmetric. A comma after every three digits. Makes sense.

Standardisation is what the world at large is comfortable with.

Extreme Xenophobia can be dangerous.
M S Prabhakar
Replied to Bapoo Malcolm comment 6 years ago
Extremely well said! It took several generations to forget the 'anna' system. The 'lakh-crore' lingo is not understood by any nation outside of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

I actually could not understand the real object of discussion in this forum. Is the objective to glorify and popularize the 'lakh-crore' lingo or is it to shift commas (in large figures) to help people who are familiar with 'lakh-crore' lingo? If it's the former, why do the champions of 'lakh-crore' lingo stop only with lakh and crore? They should also advocate use of 'arab' [100 Cr], 'kharab' [10,000 Cr], 'neel' [10 Lakh Cr], 'padm' [10 Cr Cr], 'shankh' [1 Lakh Lakh Cr], 'gulshan' [10,000 Cr Cr], etc. to thoroughly confuse people. If the objective is to to shift commas (in large figures) to help people who are familiar with 'lakh-crore' lingo to understand, I don't know what stops them. Microsoft Excel, for example, has already built this functionality to format large numbers, if one prefers. If you want to change the default format from millions to lakhs, you can change the Region and Language settings to English (India). Alternatively in Excel, you can also press Ctrl 1 to go to formatting and choose custom formatting, then custom format numbers to show commas after specific number of digits.

Standardization is a fast track to progress. When the day dawns when India would dominate world commerce and business, we could think about standardizing the world's vocabulary to 'lakh-crore' lingo. Till then, it's advantageous to us and the young generation of Indians who want to integrate with the world to go with 'million-billion-trillion' jingo.
Marks
6 years ago
RBI is exception because it is the "Rothschild bank of India". That is why. Rothschild stuck up to you know.
M S Prabhakar
Replied to Marks comment 6 years ago
I think your equation of RBI as India's Rothschild is an allusion to RBI's perceived "arrogance" (in some circles) over its recent policies. May I politely point out that RBI's recent policy decisions are considered as among world's most professional, evidence-based and politically agnostic. The current governor of RBI is a great champion of "arm's length" policy decisions, which makes many crony capitalists feel uneasy.
yogi
6 years ago
The Indian system is necessary, since the rural India knows only this. Surprisingly our system survived during 100 years of British rule, but not now. We have names for every number till 10 followed by ten zeros in sanskrit: which is a proud achievement. The Chinese would have made it as a rule to follow, but we are myopic enough to loose the advantage in the name of learning difficulty.
2004balu.a
Replied to yogi comment 9 months ago
Indians using Indian numeral system is like Americans using the imperial system. We gotta change.
Meenal Mamdani
6 years ago
The author makes a very good point. I used to be baffled by the switch between the Indian and Western system every time I visited India.
Rather than pick one as more desirable why not request RBI to use both systems when they publish their data.
After all, there is nothing sacrosanct in the systems per se. Let us make things easier for the people who use them to make important decisions.
2004balu.a
Replied to Meenal Mamdani comment 9 months ago
And the international system is the better one. The only advantage the Indian one has is that more people know it in India
Himansu S M
6 years ago
NUMBERS & NOMENCLATURE
S.N. NUMBERS Power Western Indian General / Commercial
0 0 Of Ten Zero Shunya Shun
1 1 0 Unit Eka Ek
2 10 1 Ten Dasha Das
3 100 2 Hundred Shaha Shou
4 1,000 3 Thousand Sahasra Hazaar
5 10,000 4 Ten Thousand Ayuta Das Hazaar
6 1,00,000 5 Hundred Thousand Lakshya Ek Lakh
7 10,00,000 6 Million Niyuta Das Lakh
8 1,00,00,000 7 Ten Million Koti Karod
9 10,00,00,000 8 Hundred Million Arbuda Das Karod (Arab)
10 1,00,00,00,000 9 Billion Brunda Sau Karod
11 10,00,00,00,000 10 Ten Billion Kharba Hazaar Karod (Kharab)
12 1,00,00,00,00,000 11 Hundred Billion Nikharba Das Hazaar Karod
13 10,00,00,00,00,000 12 Trillion Shankha Ek Lakh Karod
14 1,00,00,00,00,00,000 13 Ten Trillion Padma Das Lakh Karod
15 10,00,00,00,00,00,000 14 Hundred Trillion Sagar
16 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 15 Quadrillion Antya
17 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 16 Ten Quadrillion Madhya
18 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 17 Hundred Quadrillion Pararddha
19 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 18 Pentallion
PRAKASH D. BASRUR
6 years ago
Absolutely relevant and useful suggestion ! We have followed the British systems like a true slaves ! Of course we had no choice of inventing our own standards, systems & procedures like the Japanese , Russians , Chinese & many other non-English European nations but to continue with the established British practices ! However , why give up counting numbers in Lakh ( even this is spelled as Lac !) & Crore , as was our practice from Arya Bhatta's time and which we are so used to in our day to day life ? It is like continuing with the British names for our cities & towns like Kirkee (for Khadaki ) , Jubbalpore (for Jabalpur), Poona (for Pune) and so on and so forth ! Isn't all such habits a slavish behaviour ? With 200 years under the British have we given up our age-old practices which prevailed long before the British & the Mughals ?
tstcikhthys
Replied to PRAKASH D. BASRUR comment 2 years ago
Well English is a "British system", so maybe we should stop using that according to you? But the point is that insofar as we are using English, we should use it wholesale. That's notwithstanding the point that the Western numbering system makes much more sense, as it's simple and consistent: put a comma or thin space for every 3 digits. The Indian numbering system, at least in common use, is horribly inconsistent and cumbersome: first put a comma/space for 3 digits, then do it for every 2 until you get to 1 billion, when you do it for 3 digits, and then resume with 2 digits again because we recycle the lakh/crore nomenclature instead of using words expressly created for this purpose: arab, kharab, neel, padma, shankh, etc.

As for the names of places, yes, I agree that we should rename them. Maybe start with Punjab and Odisha? They should be Panjab and Orisha. Seeing as the people can't even spell their own names/places/words properly, your argument stands feebly.

Rather than prescribing some sort of blind nationalistic/xenophobic agenda, why not consider doing things based on their actual rationale? Use the Western numbering system in English, but use the full-fledged Indian number system for Indic languages. Switch to driving on the right side of the road, and start using the IEC 60906-1 standard for power sockets/plugs. It's not about eschewing everything foreign, it's about eschewing things that don't make sense anymore regardless of their origin.
PRAKASH D. BASRUR
6 years ago
Absolutely relevant and useful suggestion ! We have followed the British systems like a true slaves ! Of course we had no choice of inventing our own standards, systems & procedures like the Japanese , Russians , Chinese & many other non-English European nations but to continue with the established British practices ! However , why give up counting numbers in Lakh ( even this is spelled as Lac !) & Crore , as was our practice from Arya Bhatta's time and which we are so used to in our day to day life ? It is like continuing with the British names for our cities & towns like Kirkee (for Khadaki ) , Jubbalpore (for Jabalpur), Poona (for Pune) and so on and so forth ! Isn't all such habits a slavish behaviour ? With 200 years under the British have we given up our age-old practices which prevailed long before the British & the Mughals ?
Ankur Bhatnagar
6 years ago
I greatly appreciate this article highlighting the need to standardise the numbering system. I find that most Indians are comfortable talking in terms of lakhs and crores as far as rupee amounts are concerned and in millions and billions for foreign currency. This is what I prefer too.

Psychologically, two digit (order of hundreds) is also a decent approximation for estimating numbers for a human mind. For example, we can feel the distinction between, say, 67 and 68 but the numbers 67.2 and 67.4 tend to be nearly same for human minds.

As an addition, I would also like to add the term 'arab' (100 crore) as part of the standard. There are two advantages to this: it makes it easier to state very large numbers, and secondly, it maps directly to billion. 5 arab = 5 billion. Billion has become a popular term for large numbers. For example, you can say the population of India is 1.3 arab, or movies having box office collections of Rs. 1 arab or more...
shrikant sundaram
6 years ago
This should be part of the PM campaign of Make in India. RBI probably is an international representation of Indian economy hence it follows the English number system but its important that Indian number system is followed consistently.
Pramod Bhave
6 years ago
Can we use this forum to request the software companies to make this option available to us for viewing the reports on our computer or tabs/phones for uniformity. Thanks
Bhave
sivaraman anant
6 years ago
I couldn't agree more! Even some PSUs a few years ago were reporting in millions and billions, ostensibly to cater to the FIIs investing in it, ignoring in-house and minority shareholders' suggestions.
I am unsure, but the change came probably after a welcome govt. diktat!
R S Murthy
6 years ago
Numbers are taught to children from primary education level. Indian system after first 3 zeroes, a cama is put later for every 2 zeros. British system after 3 zeros. Is it not our over enthsiasm to change the primary education systems all over the world.In the process of evolution things will get automatically adjusted and fit into place.There are so many calenders in the world but people got adjusted to Jan to Dec. When one tries to interfere there will be resistancde. Allow nature to take its own course.
M S Prabhakar
6 years ago
Indian numbering system is confusing and is best to avoid. Western numbering system is simple to remember and calculate (orders of 1,000). RBI is right to follow the Western system because it allows least confusion in calculations and communications involving money matters.
Kalpesh Shah
Replied to M S Prabhakar comment 6 years ago
How? Can you give an example of where it confused you?
M S Prabhakar
Replied to Kalpesh Shah comment 6 years ago
When converting between thousands, millions, billions and trillions, one just needs to shift in units of three zeroes -- much like converting between kilos and tonnes, litres and kilolitres, metres and kilometres, or any other metric unit. Why should we regress to a complex method of mental calculation when we, as a nation, have successfully converted to the metric system? Fortunately, an average Indian's mind is more tuned to metric methods of calculation than an average American or Britisher who still uses the foot-pound-ounce-gallon system that is complex for mental calculations. Hence adopting million-billion-trillion way for ₹ is a more sensible approach than shifting commas to suit our lakh-crore vocabulary.
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