We often have given credits to politicians for a lot of positive work irrespective of party lines. But there has always been an expert team behind every great initiative. We look at one such visionary who laid the foundations of telecom and digital boom of India. Sam Pitroda can be easily called as the pioneer of the telecom industry in India. His visionaries and efforts brought about a telecom revolution in the country.
Satyanarayan (abbreviated to ‘Sam’ by a clerk who couldn’t pronounce his name) Gangaram Pitroda was born to a family of a labour in the Titilagarh of India. His family was deeply influenced by the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, and hence Sam was sent to study in Gujarat to imbibe Gandhian philosophy. In school he developed interest in Physics, which introduced him to various ideas. After school he pursued his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.
Pathbreaking work in the United States
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. He is regarded as one of the earliest pioneers of hand-held computing because of his invention of the Electronic Diary in 1975. He was also the pioneer of mobile wallet that gave a mobile payment systems.
Return to India
He was in America, when he came across the plight of telephone services in India. 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. He set up the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) in 1984. Thus began the transformation of India’s telecommunications system. It was an indigenous telephone technology that networked the rural telephone exchanges (RAX).
With Rajiv Gandhi, Pitroda worked on other developmental issues in India and established National Technology Missions concerning about drinking water, literacy rate and immunisation. He also the adviser to the Prime Minister. Pitroda returned to India for the second time in 2004 as head of a newly-formed National Knowledge Commission and, later, as adviser to the Prime Minister with rank of a cabinet minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, to help democratize information.
Pitroda founded and served as Chairman of C-SAM, and holds around 100 technology patents. Hi is a serial entrepreneur having businesses like Wescom Switching, Ionics, MTI, Martek, WorldTel, C-SAM, etc. in the US and Europe. He was also an advisor to the United Nations. He is main who worked relentlessly without letting anything come between his dreams. He wished to see India as a modern nation, which he has been able to incorporate in the country.
The Logical Indian thanks Mr Sam Pitroda for his service to the country, for his initiatives which laid the foundations of tech India. We hope he will continue to serve India in some capacity or the other and inspire more like him to take India forward.