Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda
Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda
Born 4 May 1942 (1942-05-04) (age 69)
Titlagarh, Orissa, India
Residence Delhi, India
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Maharaja Sayajirao University
Illinois Institute of Technology
Occupation Telecom engineer, inventor, development guru, entrepreneur
Employer Advisor to the Prime Minister
Known for Communication revolution
Title Innovator
Religion Hinduism
Children 2
[1] Sam Pitroda

Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda popularly known as Sam Pitroda (born 4 May 1942) is an inventor, entrepreneur and policymaker. Currently Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations, he is also widely considered to have been responsible for India’s communications revolution.[1] As Advisor, he will be looking into creating information infrastructure for enhancing delivery of services to the citizens in various areas and will also be working on creating a roadmap for a ‘Decade of Innovation’ in India.

He has served as Chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (2005–2008), a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, set up to give policy recommendations for improving knowledge related institutions and infrastructure in the country. During its term, the National Knowledge Commission submitted around 300 recommendations on 27 focus areas covering a range of aspects of the knowledge paradigm. Mr. Pitroda holds around 100 key technology patents, has been involved in several start ups, and lectures extensively around the world.

He is also the founder & CEO of C-SAM, Inc. The company maintains its headquarters in Chicago with offices in London, Tokyo , Mumbai and Vadodara. Following the development of core technologies in the U.S. and Europe, C-SAM's development centers in India now focus on innovation, customization and cost effective deployment for its customers.

He has also served as an advisor to the United Nations and in 1992, his biography Sam Pitroda: A Biography was published and became the bestseller on the The Economic Times list for five weeks.

As technology Advisor to the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi in the 1984s, Mr. Pitroda not only heralded the telecom revolution in India, but also made a strong case for using technology for the benefit and betterment of society through several missions on telecommunications, literacy, dairy, water, immunization, oilseeds etc.. He has continued to redefine the role technology can play in a society like India by linking it to better delivery of services for the underprivileged in the country.

He has lived mainly in Chicago, Illinois since 1964 with his wife and two children. .[2]


Early life

Born in Titlagarh, Orissa, India. His parents hailed from Gujarat and migrated to Orissa. They were deeply influenced by Gandhi and his philosophy and consequently, he and his brother were sent to Gujarat to imbibe Gandhian philosophy. He completed his schooling from Vallabh Vidyanagar in Gujarat and completed his Masters in Physics and Electronics from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara . After completing his Masters in Physics he went to the US and obtained a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. In 2010, he received an Honorary degree from University of Illinois at Chicago.


Early career

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s Sam Pitroda was involved in cutting edge technology research work in telecommunications and hand-held computing. He is widely regarded as one of the earliest pioneers of hand-held computing because of his invention of the Electronic Diary in 1975.

In 1974, Sam Pitroda founded a company, Wescom Switching which was one of the first digital switching companies in the world. He developed a revolutionary new system called 580 DSS switch, which he spent nearly four years perfecting. Thus, in 1978, it was released to the world and it became an instant hit becoming one of the most successful systems in the market. Wescom was eventually acquired by Rockwell International, where Pitroda became the Vice President. During his four decades as an engineer, Mr. Pitroda has filed scores of patents in telecommunications. The latest set of patents relate to mobile phone based transaction technology [3][4] which cover the entire spectrum of transactions, both financial and non-financial, via mobile phones.

In 1983, he also designed his own computer-themed card game called Compucards which used binary numbers instead of decimal (1, 2, 4, 8...) had a computer bug as the joker. The equivalent of a king in a regular deck of cards was the 'Programmer' that bore an uncanny resemblance to Pitroda himself. Through the 1990s Mr. Pitroda explored the world of mobile phone transaction technology and telecom developments in emerging markets.

A widely traveled man, Mr. Pitroda is a much sought after speaker at top international events. Mr. Pitroda divides his time between Chicago and Delhi..

In 1984, Mr. Pitroda was invited to return to India by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. On his return, he started the Center for Development of Telematics C-DOT, an autonomous telecom R&D organization. He had previously become a naturalized US citizen, and renounced his US citizenship to take Indian citizenship again in order to work in the Government. [2] In 1987, he became advisor to Mrs. Gandhi's successor, Rajiv Gandhi and was responsible for shaping India's foreign and domestic telecommunications policies.

In 1987 during his tenure as advisor to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi , Mr. Pitroda headed six technology missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy and oilseeds. He is also the founder and first chairman of India’s Telecom Commission.

Mr Pitroda has been responsible for shaping India’s foreign and domestic telecommunications policies. He is largely considered to be responsible for the telecommunication revolution in India and specifically, the ubiquitous, yellow-signed Public Call Offices (PCO) that quickly brought cheap and easy domestic and international public telephones all over the country.

File:Sam Pitroda summit..jpg
At a summit

In the 1990s Sam Pitroda returned to Chicago to manage his business interests. When the United Progressive Alliance government came to power following the 2004 General Elections, the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh invited him to head the National Knowledge Commission of India.

In July 2009, the Government of India invited Mr. Sam Pitroda to head an expert committee on ICT in Railways. In October 2009, Sam Pitroda was appointed as Advisor to PM of India (Dr. Manmohan Singh) on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations with the rank of Cabinet Minister.

In August 2010 , cil,[5] headed by Sam Pitroda, with special focus on micro, small and medium enterprises for 2010-20.[6]


International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conferred the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award to Mr. Sam Pitroda in Geneva on 17 May 2011. He was awarded in recognition of his dedication to promoting Information, communication and technology as a means of providing a better life for humanity and social and economic empowerment. He is the first Indian to receive this prestigious award.

Sambalpur University honored Mr. Pitroda with D.Sc. on its 23rd convocation on 14 July 2010.

  • Rajiv Gandhi "Global Indian" award in 2009.
  • Padma Bhushan in 2009 by the Government of India for his contribution to Science and Engineering.
  • The Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for ushering in the telecom and IT revolution in India.
  • Dataquest IT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.


He was also felicitated on 31 March 2009 by Akhila Bharatiya Viswakarma Mahasabha (ABVM) for service to the viswakarma community, in the presence of Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Shiela Dixit, and President of ABVM, Chedilal Sharma. In 2008, Pitroda was elected as World Prominent Leader by the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs WNYLE

Other contributions

In 1993, Mr. Pitroda helped establish[7] the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition (FRLHT)[8] near Bangalore in India. At present, he is a Governing Council Member. The aim of the foundation is to make full use of India's rich and diverse traditional medicinal knowledge. Pitroda also serves on the IIT International Board of Overseers.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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