Deciphering Number Plates: India

Deciphering Number Plates: India

How is the registration-number system handled in the world’s second most populous country? And why do cars in India have three registration marks? This article has all the answers.

12. 3. 2019 Models

VIn the third part of our Deciphering Number Plates series, we visit India, the second most populous country in the world. The UN estimates that there were over 1.3 billion inhabitants there in 2018. How does the Indian registration-number system cope with such huge numbers of people and the vehicles they drive? The solution, it would seem, is simple. More characters. While ordinary Czech and British registration numbers consist of seven characters, ten characters are the norm in India – four are usually letters and the rest are digits.


The first two characters of an Indian registration number are letters denoting the federal state or union territory, of which there are 36 in India. Next up are two digits indicating the regional transport authority within the state or territory that issued the registration number. After that, there are one, two or three letters showing the current series of registration numbers. The final four digits are the number unique to the plate. The last feature of a number plate is the IND sign on the left. Above that is Ashoka Chakra (the symbol depicted on the Indian flag), and below it is the number plate’s lasered PIN code. Some states and territories (such as the National Capital Territory of Delhi) add an extra letter before the series explained above in order to designate the vehicle type. Each state can use its own set of codes for this purpose. Delhi, for example, makes a distinction between motorbikes, cars, electric vehicles, public transport vehicles, three-wheeled rickshaws, taxis, pick-up trucks, and rental vehicles.

What is in a number plate?

Indian number plates come in five different colour combinations. Plates for private vehicles have black lettering on a white background. Commercial vehicles, such as taxis, buses and lorries, have black lettering on a yellow background. Yellow lettering on a black background is used to denote a vehicle rental. White lettering on a light blue background indicates that the vehicle belongs to a foreign embassy or consulate. The latest addition to the family of Indian number plates is plates for vehicles running on electricity, which have white lettering on a green background. On top of all that, there is a sixth form of number plate that happens to be quite special and very exclusive. It features the state emblem of India in gold on a red background. If you ever see a car with this number plate, you will know that you have encountered the car of the Indian president or one of the governors of a federal state or union territory.

Types of number plates

Besides standard registration numbers, India also offers vanity plates, though the options available are rather limited – the only bits customers can choose are the last four digits and the series of the number plate. Only numbers that have never been used are on offer.

Since 2005, India has had a law on new, secure number plates. However, implementation has been very slow and has yet to be completed in some federal states. New number plates have special security features enabling them to be fitted and removed only with a special device. If they are tampered with, the plates should become unusable, and in these cases it will also be impossible to fit different plates on the vehicle.

Another security element is a third registration mark – a hologram sticker that is affixed to the windscreen and contains the registration number, the number of the transport authority issuing the plate, the engine number, the body number and a lasered PIN code, which is also on both plates. The PIN can be read with a special laser camera and, in combination with the sticker that is non-transferable and becomes unusable if removed, is one of the main elements of the whole security system. The aim is to improve the protection of vehicles from theft and to prevent criminals from using stolen number plates for their activities.




Interview with Ashish Kaushik, Product and Brand Communications, ŠKODA AUTO India


How would you sum up ŠKODA’s historical presence on the Indian market?

ŠKODA’s arrival on the Indian market in 2001 as the second European entrant at that time changed the dynamics of the Indian automotive industry forever. The OCTAVIA, with its premium quality, solid build, superlative technology, and unparalleled performance, paved the way for consistent growth of the Czech marque. ŠKODA’s long-standing history and heritage triggered an emotive nerve among the Indian audience, and ŠKODA soon earned a premium, aspirational position among car buyers. Obsession with quality and the abundance of safety features on offer meant the brand was frequently labelled “built like a tank” by the media and the masses alike. The first turbo-petrol engine and the very first twin-clutch automatic set the benchmark for a “fun-to-drive” experience. The torsional rigidity, product refinement, innovative Simply Clever features, and generous proportions and dimensions of the SUPERB (launched on the Indian market in 2001), LAURA (2006), FABIA (2008), YETI (2010), and RAPID (2011) set them apart from their Japanese and Korean rivals. ŠKODA AUTO India, over the last eighteen years, has witnessed unwavering growth on the Indian market – both in terms of sale figures and brand perception.

What is ŠKODA’s current status on the Indian market?

ŠKODA offers four models – the SUPERB, OCTAVIA, RAPID, and KODIAQ – in India. The robust model line-up perfectly suits the diverse yet specific needs of Indian customers. Each of these models conveys innumerable customer-centric features, making them leaders in the segments in which they operate.

ŠKODA has been entrusted to lead the Volkswagen Group’s INDIA 2.0 project. In this regard, we foresee some challenging yet exciting times ahead of us as we seek to strengthen the position of the Volkswagen Group in the fastest growing economy in the world – India, an automotive market likely to emerge as the third largest in the world by 2020-21.


Which models sell best on the Indian market and how do they fare against competitors in their class?

The OCTAVIA RS quickly proved its mettle in India as a perfect blend of beauty, unbending performance, and European craftsmanship, all at a competitive price. It garnered much appreciation from brand loyalists and auto enthusiasts from across the nation. After the OCTAVIA RS was unveiled in 2017, stocks of the model quickly ran out due to unprecedented demand. The OCTAVIA RS unquestionably punches well above its weight.

What trends have you observed on the Indian market?

ŠKODA, as a brand, has earned one-of-a-kind “value luxury” positioning in India, having delivered a plethora of safety and security modules, a host of segment-first features, and numerous Simply Clever solutions, all at an appealing sticker price. ŠKODA’s brand imagery and perception score higher than all other brands in its segment and are second only to the prominent luxury automotive manufacturers in India.