Lakhs and Crores

I was recently doing some research for my book, trying to find out the number of annual college graduates from a particular university in India. I was scanning quickly through on-line fact sheets, and entering numbers into a spreadsheet. Even though I know better, I fell into the Lakh and Crore trap, and because of Indian system of comma notation in numbers, I wrote everything down with an extra zero. It drove home the point that what I'm about to write is a useful thing to know, and that even if you know it, it's important to remind yourself of it periodically.

In case you don't know, India (and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) doesn't traditionally use the words "million" and "billion" to describe 106 and 109 respectively.

Instead, they use Lakhs and Crores to talk about big numbers. One Lakh is one hundred thousand, or 105. They write One Lakh like this:
  • 1,00,000. (note where the commas are)
If you're not careful, you might read that, look at the number of commas rather than the number of zeros, and think it is one million.

Crores are even tougher. A Crore is 10 million, or 107. They write One Crore like this:
  • 1,00,00,000. (again, note the commas)

As always, Wikipedia has a very informative article on this topic. For outsourcing professionals, this is worth understanding, both to grok what's going on when or if you read an Indian newspaper, and to avoid potential errors as you negotiate rates, review invoices, etc.

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