A lakh is essentially the unit of 100,000 in India, the same way a grand is the equivalent to £1,000 in the UK. The lakh though is usually referring to the INR, the Indian Rupee, and it’s a little more formal than just slang for a high number. You do have to be careful though, as some neighbouring countries use the term for their own currency too.
It’s a little more important in India to have a term for 100,000 than in Europe. Whilst it originates from the Indian number system, the system remains integrated into the monetary system despite western influence and pressure. The reason behind this is because the currency is very low. 1 GBP is currently equivalent to roughly 93 Indian Rupees. Whilst this isn’t a massive inconvenience in day-to-day life (unlike the Venezulan Bolivar, where £1 is equal to 323365 VEF), it becomes more of an issue when dealing with company accounts.
So, when representing 1 million in turnover, the company will report it as 10 lakhs. This sounds counter-intuitive, because it’s a higher number for a more inflated currency, but 10 million in turnover would be reported as 1 crore, which is another staple term in their number system. Thus, 100,000 in sales is simply 1 lakh, and 100,000,000 would simply be 10 crore. Again, when you remember that the INR is ~100 times weaker than many western currencies, you’ll soon realise that they’re constantly dealing with larger numbers in business.
How do you convert to INR?
India has some strong restrictions on bringing Indian rupees into India. Whilst you can quite exchange to the Indian rupee using some of the best exchange rates once you’re inside the country, it does mean having to take on some level of exposure and risk. You can try using your online banking debit card in an Indian ATM once you’re over there, but there’s no guarantees here. You may be forced to use a moneychanger on the streets or in the airport out of pure convenience, but you won’t get a great price.
If you’re a resident of India, you’re allowed to bring up to 25,000 INR however. Still, the currency can be found online, it’s just important to know the ins and outs around their laws if you’re planning on visiting. Likewise, making use of foreign exchange frequently asked questions can be helpful too.