The Ugly Indian Chronicles – Volume 7

SpotFix in front of Oracle Koramangala office (top is “before”, bottom is “after”)

It’s official, folks. The time has come to take my relationship with The Ugly Indian (TUI) to the next level. But first let me talk about how this relationship has evolved. It started with occasionally viewing their SpotFix videos on Facebook. After I started writing this blog, I made a half-hearted attempt to contact them for an interview post – you know how that ended, right?

Then in mid-October, mere days before the grand opening of Namma Bengaluru’s Metro, their picture-by-picture/comment-by-comment chronicling of their evolving Metro SpotFix caught my attention. And how it caught my attention! I finally “got” their unique modus operandi. With The Ugly Indian’s permission, I packaged their Metro SpotFix into a 5-act play – just adding some catchy section titles and using their pictures and captions, I published a three-part series, starting with The Ugly Indian Gift to Bangalore on the occasion of Namma Metro launch – Part 1.

On the eve of their first birthday, they sent an intriguing ‘call for birthday presents’ message. I was really “into them” by now so I promptly obliged. Somewhere at this point,my daily Facebook sessions became more about checking updates on TUI’s page and less about what my friends were up to. Pretty soon, a slew of mainstream news sites started writing about TUI. The venerable New York Times wrote a fairly accurate Are we all Ugly Indians piece. Of course I had to chime in with my comments which, (obviously) became fodder for yet another TechSangam post – Five amazing things about The Ugly Indian.

A few weeks ago, when my wife asked if I was writing any posts that were NOT related to The Ugly Indian, it seemed like a valid question. Did I have a TUI ‘problem’? Was I obsessed with TUI? If I was obsessed, was it a good thing? Was I over exposing my blog’s “core audience” with coverage of one community organization? Does an 8-month old blog even have a “core audience”? These were some of the questions I pondered about… as I continued sharing TUI updates… like this SpotFix in front of Oracle’s Koramangala office and this BBC’s interview with an anonymous TUI spokesperson.

I didn’t have to introspect too much to realize that TUI had moved me deeply. I had already gone on record with “The Ugly Indian is doing more for democracy than Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption!” Really? “doing more for democracy? Well, maybe not just yet. I truly believe that the concept of TUI is far more powerful than a holier-than-thou, sometimes hypocritical, Team Anna. It inspires and, most importantly, provides a template for citizen action for solving problems that are NOT JUST for government bodies to solve. In many ways, TUI provides a blueprint for changing people’s attitudes and behavior, and start engaging positively with the less-than-perfect environment that is India. The Ugly Indian has nothing to do with corruption yet it has everything to do with the attitude change that Sourabh Thakur writes about in Who is Corrupt?

TUI doesn’t like to call itself a movement, so I’ll use phenomenon instead. The TUI phenomenon is going from strength to strength. After 52 weeks of SpotFixes in Bangalore, they’re opening the proverbial kimono, maybe just a wee bit. According to this audio clip  they shared recently, we learned that their inspiration was Surat Municipal Commissioner’s SR Rao who transformed Surat from a dirty woebegone plague-ridden city to India’s second cleanest city in 20 months flat! Bangalore-based Porus Munshi, author of Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen, was so impressed by TUI’s work that he featured them in the book’s Audio CD companion.

Back to my relationship with The Ugly Indian… Raising it to the “next level” means the following:

  • Creation of The Ugly Indian category.
  • Instead of ad-hoc spur-of-the-moment posts, you can expect a rhythm of one post a week. Current one is Volume #7 because of six previous TUI posts. At the risk of jinxing things, my intention is to publish over the weekend (this post being an exception).
  • The content of these weekly “chronicles” shall include a sampling of interesting TUI coverage, recent SpotFixes, and most likely also some older SpotFixes (many older fixes that haven’t received their just due).
  • I survived 9 months without a smartphone but that’s going to change soon… not because I need the “web on the go”… because I need to capture all those SpotFix candidates in Bangalore as I’m traipsing around town!

And now for an illustration of the “Ugly Indian Chronicles” coverage you can expect in future posts.

Paul Rako, an engineer and blogger on EDN, weighs in with a compendium post on TUI – Bangalore tech workers are The Ugly Indian. He’s cherry-picked pictures and videos of a diverse set of SpotFixes along with his commentary. My favorite bit – Like engineers everywhere, they love to solve problems. Like technical folks everywhere, they just wade in and do the work. TUI loved the coverage but quickly gave the following disclaimer – The Ugly Indians are anonymous and don’t know, or ask about, each others’ professions or backgrounds. We have no idea whether there are more engineers or bankers in the group, and it doesn’t really matter!

A series of four tweets demonstrated the power of celebrity tweeters..


No prizes for guessing what happened to's site a few hours later... Their bandwidth quota with their hosting provider got exceeded and the site experienced some downtime. So, this crack group of UIs will now start paying a higher hosting fee. And no, they don't have any Google Ad Sense on their site either so...what are you waiting for? Go on - adopt some TereBins in your neighborhood!

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  • ghoda

    dislike! you should not ridicule anna hazare in the any article on TUI….I find it ironical that you call anna’s movement ‘holier than thou’ and then go on to say that you ‘believe’ that TUI is better than IAC.

    • Hi ghoda,
      > “you should not ridicule anna hazare in the any article on TUI”
      WHY NOT? I’m entitled to my opinion and you are entitled to rebut it. I’ve written 2 prior posts (on my other blog) on Anna Hazare – you may check them out and feel free to comment.
      I’ve been tweeting on this topic as well — but it’s kinda hard to get the Anna compendium out of it. 

      > “I find it ironical that you call anna’s movement ‘holier than thou’ and then go on to say that you 
      > ‘believe’ that TUI is better than IAC.”
      Frankly puzzled that you find it ironical. My statement is pretty consistent – in fact I should have said “holier-than-thou AND hypocritical”. Let me elaborate. 
      1. Anna is celebrated (and self-declares himself) as the torchbearer of Gandhi, yet he’s quite un-Gandhian when it suits him — Ralegaon Sidhi dealings with alcoholics (which he doesn’t deny or is repentent about), his spontaneous reaction to the Pawar-slapping incident are 2 examples.
      2. Team Anna’s less-than-perfect record of incorruptability: Kiran Bedi’s fudging receipts saga is Exhibit A. First she (& Team Anna) brazened it out, then Kejriwal commented that “she should not have done it”, and eventually new guidelines from her NGO that she shouldn’t follow this practice in the future. Is this the pettiest of petty corruptions in the grand scheme of things? Of course yes. It’s a holier-than-thou issue only because Team Anna anointed themselves as the purer-than-pure righteous brigade – which they clearly haven’t lived up to.
      3. “Holier-than-thou” is particularly accentuated amongst the Gang of 4 within Team Anna – clearly they are holier (and more right) than the rest of Team Anna. Is it a surprise that 2 prominent leaders quit publicly? And Justice Hedge (with more diplomatic words) saying the same.
      4. It’s for above reasons and a few other that I VERY CLEARLY believe TUI to be far better than IAC , far better in terms of inspiring, far better in terms of becoming a ‘sustainable movement’. Specifically,
      a) IAC’s core philosophy is “WE are ok, but politicians are NOT OK”. WE = aam admi/industry? Contrast this with TUI’s up-front acknowledgement that are are ALL ugly indians, let’s start doing something about it, not just spotfixes, but changing people’s attitudes.
      b) Extension of IAC’s core philosophy is that out of the morass of corrupt India will emerge a brand of “purer than pure” individuals (folks who have won Nobels, Magsaysay awards, etc.) who will lead the Lokayukta to dizzying heights of anti-corruption investigations, weed out ALL the corrupt officers of CBI, IAS, Class [X] officers, etc. and.. India will be saved. Err.. “those pesky reforms” – that ain’t no silver bullet so no need to worry about it.
      c) TUI goes to great lengths to NOT be in the public eye and, most importantly, Team TUI is anonymous — it’s not about “getting credit”. Eventually, people will find out who Team TUI is but knowing their identity is NOT essential for people to get inspired and take up the blueprint of action they have pioneered. Need I say more?

      I’ll stop now not because I don’t have anything more to say. It’s enough for one comment.


      • Ash

        why mix up the two and compare..each is trying to do their best. i have supported, taken part in both and i find the comparison and analysis a waste of time. just follow the TUI philosophy. Mooh bandh Kaam chaalu

  • Dhana

    As you introspect the TUI obsession, I am thankful for the details. Your blog is a very important. It helps me understand and contribute to social causes.