The Rupee dates back thousands of years. It is thought to be based on the Sanskrit word rūpya which, when literally translated, means a round silver coin.
The rūpya was used in Ancient India and has been the name for a multitude of currencies on the Indian subcontinent.
It was the name of various British colonial currencies in the region and is currently the name of several currencies stretching from India to Indonesia. They are detailed below.
Indian Rupee (INR)
The Rupee (INR) has been in use in India since the country gained its independence from the UK in the 1940’s. Even before that, a version of the Rupee was in circulation, it is thought to have been in use in one form or another on the continent for over 500 years.
In the last survey by the Bank for International Settlements, the Indian Rupee was the 16th most traded currency and accounted for on average 1.7% of the daily volume of FX transactions.
For the last 25 years, the Rupee has been dramatically losing value against the major western currencies. Ten years ago 1 USD was worth around ₹55, today it’s worth nearly ₹80. This is in large part due to India’s large trade deficit and high levels of public debt.
Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
The Rupiah was introduced in the 1940’s to replace the Dutch colonial currency. Since then it has experienced various ups and downs. It notably took hits in the late 90s, late 2000s and most recently during the COVID pandemic.
In the last survey by the Bank for International Settlements, the Rupiah was the 25th most traded currency and accounted for on average 0.4% of the daily volume of FX transactions.
In recent years, the Rupiah has depreciated in value against major western currencies. In 2012, 1 USD was equal to around Rp10,000, today it’s nearly Rp15,000.
The Rupiah is one of the world’s least valued currencies with average rent for a flat being over Rp8,000,000 a month.
Mauritius Rupee (MUR)
The Mauritian rupee was first introduced at the same time as the Seychellois rupee in the nearby Seychelles, by the then British Colonial administration.
When the country gained independence in 1948 it established its own Central Bank in the capital Port Louis. Between 1968 and 1992, Mauritius retained Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state therefore early forms of the currency therefore feature her portrait.
The currency has freely floated on the markets since the early 90s.
Nepalese Rupee (NPR)
Nepal sits to the north of India and in multiple ways is dwarfed by its neighbour. In 1932 ceased using its historic currency the Mohar and replaced it with the Nepalese Rupee.
Since then, the currency has been tied to the much stronger Indian rupee (INR), being pegged at various rates over the years. Whilst the currencies are separate and not interchangeable, the fortunes of the Nepalese Rupee very much depend on the performance of INR.
Following the abolition of the Monarchy in the early 2000’s, the country replaced all imagery of its monarchs with that of one of Nepal’s most famous sights: Mount Everest.
Pakistani Rupee (PKR)
Like its neighbour India, the Pakistani rupee is derived from the old British colonial rupee and has been in place since the country gained independence in 1948.
The rupee was once pegged to Sterling and then to USD, but now floats freely.Despite this, the Pakistani Rupee is subject to strict Foreign Exchange controls and it is difficult to transfer money in or out of the country.
In recent years, the Rupee has dramatically depreciated in value against major western currencies. In 2012, 1 USD was equal to around 96 Rupees, today it’s over 225 Rupees.
Like its neighbours Sri Lanka and India, Pakistan suffers from a large trade deficit and therefore its currency is at much greater risk of peril than other countries.
Seychelles Rupee (SCR)
The Seychelles is the world’s smallest country to have its own fully independent currency.
The Seychellois rupee has been in use for over 100 years, being formally introduced in 1914 by the British Colonial Administration. Up until that point the colony used Sterling. For a long time it was pegged, however in 2008 it was freely floated.
The Seychelles maintains its own monetary policy and the Rupee is managed by the Central Bank of Seychelles which is based on the largest island of the nation, Mahé.
Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Throughout the period of Empire, in the 19th and first half of the 20th Century, Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was then known) was administered separately to mainland India. Despite this, the colonial Indian Rupee was the main currency. A Ceylon rupee was minted, however it was always convertible at par to the Indian version.
When Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, it established its own independent Central Bank and monetary policy.
Due to the ongoing political and economic crisis on the island, the Sri Lankan rupee has become in recent years one of the world’s worst performing currencies.