Sam Pitroda

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Sam Pitroda
Pitroda at the India Economic Summit 2009
Born (1942-11-17) 17 November 1942 (age 81)[1]
CitizenshipIndia (birth; current)
United States (former)[2]
Alma materMaharaja Sayajirao University
Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago
Occupation(s)Telecom engineer, entrepreneur
EmployerFormer advisor to the prime minister on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations (PIII)
Known forTelecom innovation in India [citation needed]

Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda (born 17 November 1942), also known as Sam Pitroda (Hindi: [sɔt̪jɔnaːraːjɔɳɔ ɡɔŋgaːraːmɔ piʈroɽaː]) is an Indian telecommunication engineer and entrepreneur. He was born in Titlagarh in the eastern Indian state of Odisha[3] to a Gujarati family. He was also an advisor to the PM during Dr. Manmohan Singh's tenure and for United Nations.[4]

Early life[edit]

Pitroda was born in Titlagarh, Odisha, India to Gujarati parents.[5] He had seven siblings and is third oldest among them.[6] 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 master's degree in physics, he went to the United States in 1964 and obtained a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

In 1966 he went to work for GTE in Chicago.[7] He is regarded as one of the earliest pioneers of hand-held computing because he invented the Electronic Diary in 1975.[8] 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 related to mobile phone-based transaction technology,[9] both financial and non-financial.

Return to India and work[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.[10] 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 to work in the Indian Government.[11]

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 oilseeds. He spent nearly a decade with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as the 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.

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]

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.

In 2008, Javier Jileta started working for Mr Pitroda's initiatives, leading to the creation and cofounding of Scientika, a nonprofit organization focused on fostering talent to drive effective change through innovation and creativity. Together, Pitroda and Jileta designed a new paradigm for Mexico City and published it in Mexico City: a Knowledge Economy, an ideological platform with more than 100 interviews of opinion leaders from academia, government, business and civil society for Mr Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of Mexico City.

Pitroda also founded the National Innovation Council[14] (2010), and served as the Advisor to the Prime Minister with rank of a cabinet minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation,[15] to help democratize information. In August 2010, Pitroda was appointed Chairman of the National Innovation Council.[16]

He was appointed as the chancellor of the Central University of Rajasthan by the President of India in 2013.

In 2017, he was appointed as Chairman of Alpha-En Corporation, a Lithium Metal Clean Technology company.[citation needed]

Pitroda founded and served as Chairman of C-SAM.[17] The company maintains its headquarters in Chicago with offices in Singapore, Tokyo, Pune, Mumbai and Vadodara. Pitroda holds around 2000 technology patents, and has been involved in most of world investments received from INC registered in India which serves several start-ups and lectures extensively.

Pitroda has also started several businesses as a serial entrepreneur (Wescom Switching, Ionics, MTI, Market, 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[18] and became a bestseller on The Economic Times list for five weeks.[citation needed]

He is living in Chicago, Illinois since 1964 with his wife and two children and also in Delhi.[11]


Sam Pitroda currently chairs five major NGOs:

The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology[edit]

The first is the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions founded in 1990 with Darshan Shankar. It has now turned into the University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology near Bangalore in India. The foundation promotes Ayurveda, India's traditional medicinal knowledge. Today, FRLHT has over 200 scientists and professionals on a 19-acre campus and has documented over 7,000 herbal medicinal plants. It also has over 100 herbal medicine gardens, approximately 500 acres each. Sam Pitroda is chairman, of the board of trustees at the institute.[19]

The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI)[edit]

In 2009, Sam Pitroda founded The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) along with Nina Fedoroff and Sara Farley in Washington, DC as a non-profit organization[20] with a mission to forge, optimize, and sustain knowledge partnerships between the people and institutions of higher education and research around the world. They build and support purpose-driven networks to solve shared challenges in science, technology, and innovation.

India Food Banking Network[edit]

In 2010, Pitroda established the India Food Banking Network (IFBN) to create a network of Food Banks in India to systematically capture and distribute food to empower and support the food security mission in India. Today, IFBN has food banks in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida with plans to expand into Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, and others. Sam Pitroda is chairman of the advisory board of the India FoodBanking Network.[21]

People for Global Transformation[edit]

People for Global Transformation was launched in 2012 along with Mr. Hubert Vedrine, France's former Chief of Staff for President Mitterrand. PGT is a global think tank that brings together an interdisciplinary group of 15 leading voices from across the globe to help shape the 21st century's discourse on development and governance and provide innovative policy recommendations. The group particularly endeavours to generate greater transversal thinking on the transformational potential of technology and its consequences for all.[22]

Action For India[edit]

Also in 2012, Pitroda founded Action For India to help social innovators in India overcome barriers to scale and achieve greater impact at the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid.[23]


In addition to these six NGOs, Sam Pitroda is also:

  • Founding commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission[24]
  • Chairman of the m-Powering Development Initiative of the ITU in Geneva[25]
  • Chairman of the Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre[26]
  • Board Member of the World Wide Web Foundation[27]
  • Board Member of the Institute of Design, IIT, Chicago[28]


Books by Pitroda[edit]

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

Books about Pitroda[edit]

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


In 1993, Pitroda helped to establish (with Darshan Shankar) the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition and The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology near Bangalore in India. The foundation promotes Ayurveda, India's traditional medicinal knowledge.[30] The two founders were honored in 2003 by Columbia University.[31]


  • Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award, 2000 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to telecommunication and harnessing it for the social and economic transformation of developing countries
  • Dataquest gave Pitroda a lifetime achievement award in 2002.[7]
  • In 2008, Pitroda was elected as a world prominent leader by the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs.[32]
  • 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]
  • In May 2010, the University of Illinois at Chicago college of medicine presented him an honorary degree.[33][34]
  • Sambalpur University honored Pitroda with D.Sc. on its 23rd convocation on 14 July 2010.
  • The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 2009 for his contribution to Science and Engineering.[35]
  • The Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for ushering in the telecom and IT revolution in India.
  • Andhra University honored Pitroda with D.Sc. in 2008.
  • Award for Public Service in the Field of Telecommunications, IEEE Communications Society, 2007, for exceptional contributions to developing indigenous systems and telecommunications infrastructure in India
  • 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. Sheila Dikshit.
  • World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 2011, for his outstanding contribution to improving life in rural communities through information and communication technologies. Sam Pitroda is the first Indian to receive this prestigious award
  • He addressed the 2nd Indian Student Parliament in 2012.[36]
  • He was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions in the field of telecom technology & innovation by American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) at its 31st National Convention held on 3 Dec 2016 at Cal State University, Pomona, CA [37]
  • He addressed the gathering of students and faculties of Seshadripuram First Grade College - Yelahanka, Bangalore, and various other students and faculties from other institutions across Bangalore about the topic of 'Innovation and Advancement in Modern Education' on 14 October 2017.


  1. ^ "Timeline".
  2. ^ "'Telecom czar' focuses on his next big thing". Chicago Tribune. 8 July 2007.
  3. ^ "Timeline". Sam Pitroda. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  4. ^ "The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda". Retrieved 13 May 2023.
  5. ^ Jain, Ankur (26 January 2009). "Padma Bhushan for 4 Gujaratis". The Times of India. Ahmedabad.
  6. ^ IM Indore - lecture by Sam Pitroda part-1 on YouTube
  7. ^ a b "Sam Pitroda: Lifetime Achievement Award 2002". Dataquest. 27 December 2002. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  8. ^ "Electronic Diary patent - CHM Revolution". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Home". Sam Pitroda. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  10. ^ Emily Stone (26 November 2007). "Chicago's 'Mr. India'". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  11. ^ a b Mike Hughlett (8 July 2007). "'Telecom czar' focuses on his next big thing". Chicago Tribune. 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. ^ "National Innovaiton Council". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Adviser". Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  16. ^ "Mr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman". Web site. National Innovation Council. Archived from the original on 20 October 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Dr. Sam Pitroda". Corporate bio web page. C-SAM. Archived from the original on 1 September 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  18. ^ Mayank Chhaya (June 1992). Sam Pitroda: A Biography. Konark Publishers. ISBN 8122002757.
  19. ^ "The University of Trans-disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Staff and Advisors - Global Knowledge Initiative". Archived from the original on 15 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  21. ^ [1] [dead link]
  22. ^ "CitX - People for Global Transformation". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  23. ^ "About Us | Action for India". Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  24. ^ "Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  25. ^ "m-Powering Advisory Board". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Vikram Sarabhai". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Global". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Board of Overseers - Roles - IIT Institute of Design". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  29. ^ "Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi Attend Sam Pitroda's Book Launch". NDTV. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  30. ^ "About". Web site. The Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  31. ^ "Columbia University honors FRLHT and Dr. Darshan Shankar". PharmaBiz. 15 November 2003. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  32. ^ "WNYLE Prominent Leader". Organization web site. Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  33. ^ "UIC to award honorary degree to Sam Pitroda". India Tribune. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  34. ^ "Honorary Degrees 1966 - 2010". University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  35. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  36. ^ "Indian Student Parliament: Dignitaries". Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  37. ^ "'Technology Driven Future' Theme of ASEI's Annual Convention".

External links[edit]