Forgive us for how long this has taken, but we did put a lot of thought into this decision. From now on Profit will be using the terms lakhs and crores in its reportage instead of millions, tens of millions, hundred million and so on.
The question of how subcontinental publications should deal with numerals and their linguistic representation is not a new one. In India, for example, English publications and in particular financial publications use the terms lakhs and crores when talking about numbers. Generally, the trend in Pakistani English language newspapers and magazines has remained to write numbers in the millions and billions. Most old-school editors in the country believed in using the ‘proper’ British brand of the English language, where missing a letter or using the American spelling is considered sacrilege.
It is perhaps that same stiff upper lip that has resulted in millions being the core word with which we represent numbers. But for a long time there has been a general sense of unease in Profit about these terms. After all, our readership is predominantly Pakistani and that is also the audience we cater to. The question that has continued to bother us has been this: What does it mean when someone says something costs Rs 4 million?
For most of our readership, the figure of Rs 4 million is a vague one. How much is Rs 4 million? What can you buy in it? How many months of salary would it take to save up that much money? The term seems vague because people don’t think in millions. But if you were to say something costs Rs 40 lakh, that would immediately ring a bell. Why? Because Rs 40 lakh is how much a new Suzuki Swift costs. Or it might be how much a person spent on their child’s wedding. Or perhaps it was the amount that you paid for the first installment on your house.
The same goes for the term crore. If you mention Rs 45 million to a person, they might have a hard time placing how much money that is. But if you say Rs 4.5 crores, they will immediately think that is how much a 1 kanal plot costs in Lahore’s DHA Phase 6.
Our contention is that if the reader is thinking in lakhs and crores, it will be easier for them to comprehend and understand numbers in these terms when they read them too. Similarly, this is not just limited to money. It is easier, for example, to understand that Pakistan has a population of 28 crore rather than 280 million.
That said, there are some caveats. For example, when the terms we are talking about are in dollars. If a venture capitalist invests $250,000 in a Pakistani startup, for example, it would be strange to read $2.5 lakh. Most people hear about dollars and dollar terms from foreign media whether it is through film, books, or newspapers. Which is why it is easier to think of what $1 million means rather than what Rs 1 million means.
On top of that, if an investor puts in money in dollar terms it would be irresponsible and financially erroneous to report that in rupee terms – especially with how the forex market fluctuates. However, since the money is being spent in Pakistan, wherever appropriate we will clarify how much money this term means in rupees. In this example, $250,000 would translate to Rs 7.1 crores.
There is also another caveat. The western and subcontinental categories for values are all different but they become the same at the billion mark. So while 1 million is equivalent to 10 lakhs and 10 million is equivalent to 1 crore, 1 billion is the same as 1 arab. Because billion is a more familiar number to most people than arab, in both rupee and dollar terms we will be using the term billion instead of arab since it represents the same numerical value.
More than anything else the purpose behind this change in style sheet is to make our content more easily digestible for our readers. We are sure that there are plenty of readers that are used to thinking in millions by now and comfortable in it. But we also believe that those that find it difficult to understand financial journalism deserve news that is simple and written in a language they can understand. It is this novice reader that we are targeting. We hope this will make their journey easier.