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Sam Pitroda

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The Tech Troubleshooter

He’s a maverick whose growth story, in many ways, mirrors the growth of India. Certainly, Sam Pitroda doesn’t know the meaning of taking things easy. From a modest beginning in Titlagarh, Orissa to business interests across three continents: Europe, North America and Asia, he’s had a long journey, and a mere listing of achievements doesn’t quite tell that tale.

Instead, you have to dig deeper to understand how he went from being a virtual unknown to a telecom czar, arguably the harbinger of the Indian telecom revolution. He holds almost a hundred patents, chaired six technology missions under the Rajiv Gandhi government, founded India’s Telecom Commission, is advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovations, and somewhere along the way, found time to be an author, a speaker and an artist.

His tech innovations alone have been remarkable: in the US, he introduced microprocessors in telephone switches, a development that later became key to integrating voice and data. Closer home, we can thank him for the ubiquitous yellow Public Call Offices (PCOs) across the country that made it possible to make cheap and easy domestic and international calls—a development that will seem insignificant to anyone who escaped the extraordinary experience of booking ‘trunk calls’ in pre-telecom-revolution India.

Now 69, it doesn’t seem to have struck Pitroda that there is such a thing as slowing down. But then maybe, a dreamer’s work is never done.

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