Sam Pitroda

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Sam Pitroda
Sam Headshot.jpg
Headshot of Sam Pitroda by Shazia in 2014
Born (1942-05-04) 4 May 1942 (age 72)
Titlagarh, Odisha, India
Residence Chicago, USA
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Maharaja Sayajirao University
Illinois Institute of Technology
Occupation Telecom engineer, inventor, entrepreneur
Employer Former Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations (PIII)
Known for Communication Revolution

Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda popularly known as Sam Pitroda (born 4 May 1942) is a telecom engineer, inventor, entrepreneur and policymaker. He was born in Titilagarh, a poor, remote village in rural Odisha, India. In 1964, he traveled to Chicago to study electrical engineering. Pitroda had never used a telephone before arriving in the US.

After many years Pitroda visited India and could not make a phone call to his wife. So he returned to India and spent nearly a decade with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as leader of an effort to build an Indian information industry. The task was to extend digital telecommunications to every corner of the country, including remote villages, like the one of his birth. Pitroda launched the Center for the Development of Telematics (C-DOT), and served as Advisor to the Prime Minister on Technology Missions related to water, literacy, immunization, oil seeds, telecom, and dairy. He is also the founding Chairman of India’s Telecom Commission.

Pitroda returned to India a second time in 2004 to focus on building knowledge institutions and infrastructure. Pitroda served as chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (2005–2009), a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, 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.

Pitroda also founded the National Innovation Council[1] (2010), and served as the Advisor to the Prime Minister with rank of a cabinet minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation,[2] to help democratize information.

Pitroda founded and served as Chairman of C-SAM.[3] The company maintains its headquarters in Chicago with offices in Singapore, Tokyo, Pune, Mumbai and Vadodara. Pitroda holds around 100 technology patents, has been involved in several start ups and lectures extensively.

Pitroda has also started several businesses as a serial entrepreneur (Wescom Switching, Ionics, MTI, Martek, WorldTel, C-SAM, etc.) in the US and Europe.

He has also served as an advisor to the United Nations and in 1992, his biography Sam Pitroda: A Biography was published[4] and became a bestseller on The Economic Times list for five weeks.[citation needed]

As technology Advisor to the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi in 1984, Pitroda not only heralded the telecom revolution in India, but also made a strong case for using technology for the benefit of society through missions on telecommunications, literacy, dairy, water, immunization and oil seeds.

Pitroda's claim of heralding the Telecom Revolution in India has been disputed in an article by Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta published by LiveMint.[5]

He has lived in Chicago, Illinois since 1964 with his wife and two children and also in Delhi.[6]

Early life[edit]

Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda was born in Titlagarh, Odisha, India, to parents from Gujarat. He had seven siblings and is third oldest among them.[7] The family was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy. Consequently, Pitroda and his brother were sent to Gujarat to imbibe Gandhian philosophy. He completed his schooling from Vallabh Vidyanagar in Gujarat and completed his Master's degree 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 the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. It is reported he had never made a telephone call to anyone until he came to the US.[8]


Early career[edit]

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s Pitroda was involved in technology research work in telecommunications and hand-held computing. In 1966 he went to work for GTE in Chicago.[8] He is regarded as one of the earliest pioneers of hand-held computing because of his invention of the Electronic Diary in 1975.[9]

Sam Pitroda in 2009

In 1974, Pitroda joined Wescom Switching which was one of the first digital switching companies.[citation needed] He developed the 580 DSS switch, over nearly four years. It was released in 1978. Wescom was acquired by Rockwell International in 1980, where Pitroda became vice president. During his four decades as an engineer, Pitroda filed scores of patents in telecommunications. The latest set of patents relate to mobile phone based transaction technology,[10] both financial and non-financial, via mobile phones.

Return to India[edit]

On a 1981 trip back to India, he was frustrated by how hard it was to call his family back in Chicago, and decided he could help modernize India's telecommunications system.[11] In 1984, Pitroda was invited to return to India by the 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, but renounced his US citizenship to take Indian citizenship again in order to work in the Indian Government.[6] In 1987, he became advisor to Indira 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, Pitroda headed six technology missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy and oil seeds. He founded, and was first chairman, of India's Telecom Commission.

Pitroda contributed to India’s foreign and domestic telecommunications policies. He is considered[by whom?] one among many 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.

In the 1990s Pitroda returned to Chicago to resume his business interests. In May 1995, he became the first chairman of WorldTel initiative of the International Telecommunication Union.[12]

When the United Progressive Alliance government came to power following the 2004 General Elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited him to head the National Knowledge Commission of India. In July 2009, the Government of India invited Pitroda to head an expert committee on ICT in Railways. In October 2009, Pitroda was appointed as advisor to PM of India Manmohan Singh on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations with the rank of Cabinet Minister.[13]

In August 2010, Pitroda was appointed chairman of National Innovation Council.[14]


  • Dataquest gave Pitroda a lifetime achievement award in 2002.[8]
  • In 2008, Pitroda was elected as a world prominent leader by the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs.[15]
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conferred the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award to 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 was the first Indian to receive this award.[citation needed]
  • 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.
  • IEEE Communication Society, Award for Public Service in the Field of Telecommunications in 2007
  • He was 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.
  • He addressed the 2nd Indian Student Parliament in 2012.[18]


All books are available for free on Sam Pitroda’s personal website.[10]

Books by Sam[edit]

Pitroda also holds a collection of over 40 years of his personal daily diaries and workbooks.

Books about Sam[edit]

(Part II) This biography of Sam Pitroda by Mayank Chhaya was on the best seller list in India.

Other contributions[edit]

In 1993, Pitroda helped establish (with Darshan Shankar) the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition and its Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology near Bangalore in India. The foundation promotes Ayurveda, India's traditional medicinal knowledge.[19] The two founders were honored in 2003 by Columbia University.[20] Pitroda also serves on the IIT International Board of Overseers.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Adviser". Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Dr. Sam Pitroda". Corporate bio web page. C-SAM. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Mayank Chhaya (June 1992). Sam Pitroda: A Biography. Konark Publishers. ISBN 8122002757. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Mike Hughlett (8 July 2007). "'Telecom czar' focuses on his next big thing". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  7. ^ IM Indore - lecture by sam pitroda part-1 on YouTube
  8. ^ a b c "Sam Pitroda: Lifetime Achievement Award 2002". Dataquest. 27 December 2002. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ Emily Stone (26 November 2007). "Chicago's 'Mr. India'". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Interim Board of Directors Elects Mr. Sam Pitroda as Chairman". Press release (ITU). 15 May 1995. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Pitroda appointed adviser to PM". Deccan Herald. 7 October 2009. Archived from the original on 10 February 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Mr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman". Web site. National Innovation Council. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  15. ^ "WNYLE Prominent Leader". Organization web site. Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "UIC to award honorary degree to Sam Pitroda". India Tribune. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Honorary Degrees 1966 - 2010". University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Indian Student Parliament: Dignitaries". Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "About". Web site. The Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Columbia University honors FRLHT and Dr. Darshan Shankar". PharmaBiz. 15 November 2003. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 

External links[edit]