Sam Pitroda - Harbinger of a Revolution

Satyaranarayan Gangaram Pitroda! The last name rings a bell. Yes - it is Sam Pitroda, the advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation. Sam Pitroda was single-handedly responsible for the Communication revolution that happened in India and the reason behind why the Indian economy went on a hockey-stick curve of growth, technological leaps and bounds evolution, opening up to globalization and for being where it is today. Meaning while the US and the world go through economic recession, India is still booming, salaries still sky-high; despite the 1 billion+ population, the job economy still booming and the Indian stock and real-estate markets on a steady growth curve every year.

The Rajiv Gandhi era

In 1987, when Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister, he brought with him young blood and filled the key roles around him with eager, go-getting ministers and executives who wanted to change the world - well, India. Among them was Sam Pitroda, who Rajiv Gandhi appointed as his Technology advisor. And with that began the modernization and globalization of India. As technology swept like a wave through banks and universities, railways and government offices, telephone booths spread through the country with a viral vengeance and telecommunications became affordable and accessible to the common man even in the remotest of villages. As technology became more accessible, penetrating the poorest strata of society, Rajiv Gandhi was hailed as the young hero of the nation and Sam Pitroda, the father of the Communications Revolution.

During this time, Dr. Pitroda headed six technology missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy and oilseeds and became the founder and first chairman of India's Telecom Commission.

The Early years

Sam Pitroda had lived in the US since 1964. He did his MS in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. It was here that he founded C-SAM and Wescom (later acquired by Rockwell International). He did research on telecommunications and handheld computing, invented digital switching and in 1975, invented the Electronic Diary. In 1983, he designed his own computer-themed card game called Compucards, which used binary numbers instead of decimals.

In 1984, he was invited to return to India by the then Prime Minister, Smt Indira Gandhi. He came back and founded 'The Center for Development of Telematics' (C-DOT), which triggered the Communication Revolution in India.

The Decade of Innovation

Dr. Sam Pitroda's excellence has been revered by one and all. This was self evident when in 2004, the newly elected Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh invited him to head the National Knowledge Commission of India and appointed him as Advisor to the PM of India.

In 2010, the President of India declared this as 'The Decade of Innovation'. The PM approved setting up of a National Innovation Council under the chairmanship of Sam Pitroda. The mission of this council is to develop a national strategy on innovation with a focus on an Indian model of inclusive growth.

Awards and accolades

Dr. Pitroda holds close to 100 worldwide patents. 

Among the many awards and accolades he has received, are two honorary D.Sc. degrees by Andhra University and Sambalpur University, IEEE Communication Society Award and the Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his contribution to Science and Engineering.

The Road ahead

Dr. Pitroda heads today, the Expert Group for Modernization of Indian Railways - the 4th largest Railways in the world, which carry over 30 million passengers and 2.8 million tons of freight daily, through a network of over 70,000 miles, with 1.4 million employees that man it. He is also the Chairman of the Smart Grid Task Force under the Ministry of Power and a founding Commissioner of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The contributions of Dr. Sam Pitroda, are priceless and endless. It is no wonder that he has been talked about by Times of India and others, as being a hot potential candidate for the next President of India.

Come hear Dr. Pitroda talk about innovation and revolutions in an emerging, third-world economy. Could he give us clues on how we could turn the US & global economies around? Do not miss the Closing Keynote of this year's TiECon 2012 (May 18 - 19, 2012), where you could be hearing the father of the Indian Communication revolution and possibly the future President of India, talk about how he changed the course of history and how we could do it here, all over again.

Posted by: Gargi Nalawade

Posted by TiEcon Team at May 16, 2012 10:13:51 AM

  • Pratap Nalawade
    May 16, 2012 1:15:21 PM
    It is interesting to note that with great difficulty first meeting of Sam with Mrs. Indira gandhi, Prime Minister of India was taken place. Sam's father-in-law, Haribhai Chhaya, had some association with Jaidipsinh Baria, a former ruler of a small principality in Gujarat. He put Sam in touch with Rajiv's cousin Arun Neharu. Arun Singh, a recluse friend of Mr. Gandhi was also helpful in Pitroda eventually getting an audience with Mrs. Gandhi. Sam started his opening address by telling Mrs. Indira Gandhi, "Madame, it is difficult to get my appointment in Chicago. People would not get to see me for six months. I have managed to see you after several cancellations." Sam's presentation lasted one hour & Mrs. Indira Gandhi politely acknowledged Pitroda's labour & took her leave. .
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