Monday, 6 March, 2006

Sam Pitroda

Architect of India's telecom revolution, renowned entrepreneur, National Knowledge Commission and World Tel Limited Chairman Sam Pitroda has been chosen for the Dr. Nayudamma award for the year 2005.(A report in The Hindu on March 5, 2006)

Who is this Pitroda?

His vision and technology helped connect India and provide phone access to a billion people.... Telecom revolution started in India mainly because of the efforts of this inventor, technocrat, and social thinker, providing public access to the telecommunications. He is the man who brought in the revolution in the last two decades of the 20th century. The ubiquitous bright yellow STD PCO boxes are a manifestation of his efforts.

He was also instrumental in computerizing railway reservation system in 1980’s. It is interesting to know that Sam Pitroda first used a telephone only after moving to the US to study electrical engineering! . "Since the fascination of that first call, my dream was to set up small, rural exchanges and connect my country," says Sam.

The biggest virtue of Sam Pitroda is that he has a definite vision to use technology for the benefit and betterment of society. He battled the conventional thought that questioned the need of telecom for impoverished people He made the case that telecommunications – along with substantial food, clean water, and shelter – were a fundamental component in the process of modernisation. By introducing small, rural exchanges to India, Sam Pitroda has brought telephones to some of the world's previously isolated regions. In the field of telecom, Sam's emphasis was on accessibility rather than density.

Pitroda’s tenacity helped create the concept and technology behind the network of ‘STD/PCO’ phone booths across the country, in every village. This model is unique in the world, unparalleled to this day. The basic technology behind this network was simple and cheap. Created by Pitroda’s team at the Center for Development of Telematics, which he founded in 1984, it was a device that displayed the phone call cost and generated an instant bill at the user’s end, instead of at the telephone exchange. In revolutionizing the state of telecom in India, he also created a model for other developing nations.

The key contribution was the RAX, or rural automatic exchange—small, cheap and robust phone switches that helped take telephony to rural India, forming its telecom backbone.

Along the way, he also notched up over 50 patents, for digital switching, synchronization, tone generation, tone receiving and conferencing.


Satyanarayan Gangarm Pitroda, better known as Sam Pitroda was born in Titlagarh, Orissa, India. Sam Pitroda did his schooling at Anand Vallabh Vidyalaya in Gujarat and Masters in Physics and Electronics in Baroda. In the year1964, Sam Pitroda went to the US and did his Masters in Electrical Engineering in Chicago. Thereafter he worked at GTE and formed Wescom Switching, Inc. In the year 1984, Sam Pitroda returned to India and founded the Center for Development of Telematics (CDAC) and later He worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi, as the Chief Technology Adviser to the Prime Minister. In 1989, he was elected first chairman of India's telecom commission.

Currently, Mr. Pitroda is the Chairman and CEO of World-Tel Limited, an International Telecom Union (ITU) initiative, founded by him in 1995 to help develop telecom infrastructure in less developed countries. He is also the Chairman and Founder of Sevend high-technology. He is also adviser to Kofi Annan on the ICT Advisory Committee. Sam Pitroda is also the founding Chairman of a non-profit Foundation for' Revitalization of Local Health Traditions in India.

Recipient of India’s National Citizen’s Award for work on telecom from the Prime Minister of India, Sam was also awarded the IIT Alumni Medal and the International Distinguished Leadership Award.

C-Sam Inc, a telecom solutions company promoted by Sam Pitroda, has set up its first India development centre with 40 professionals. The company has offices and development centres in the UK and the US.

He advocates the freedom of thought and developing free and inquisitive mind. This is what he says is the seed to Innovation. “Break the rules think out of the box and always look out for problems to solve” This has been his aim in life. But one thing that he emphasizes on is not only to innovate but also take credit for it. This credit comes in the form of patents and royalties . The credibility & the desire of a person increases when he gets credit for his innovation. Dr Pitroda hates any and all kinds of infirmity and he was quite coherent about it, when he remarked at the ridiculous concept of wearing a tie with a shirt to exude a sense of formality.

He says: “Dare to Dream, Follow the Dream, make the dream a reality and don’t forget to patent your reality”

Now Mr. Pitroda lives in Chicago, Illinois with his wife Anu, son Salil and daughter Rajal.


The Eternally Confused... said...

"Anand Vallabh Vidyalaya in Gujarat and Masters in Physics and Electronics in Baroda" - ok unabashed, I state with pride that this gentleman and I sharet the same karmabhoomi, Gujarat. The heaven for enterprising individuals.
I dint know the little yellow boxes were this gentlemans brainchild. Thanks for bringing forth one of the many unsung heroes of this country. Its people and deeds like this that need to be highlighted more often. But unf, media seems to be more worried about sachins tennis elbow or aishwaryas broken ankle...
Non-conformity to inane laws - :) Well, it JUST reminded me of someone....

త్రివిక్రమ్ Trivikram said...

"I state with pride ... "


"Media..."? Huh! the less we talk about it, the better. Had the media been rational and feel the responsibility, I would not have launched my first blog Chirucola at all!