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April - 2000 - issue > Cover Feature
Dr. Santanu Das
Friday, November 21, 2008
Age 55
Place of Birth Sylhet, Bangladesh (came to India as a refugee in 1952)

Residence Monroe, CT

Family Wife and two boys

Came to the U.S. 1969

Education Ph.D. (E.E.), Washington University, St. Louis, MO

First job and career Principal Engineer, ITT Corporation in 1973

Company started TranSwitch Corporation, started in 1989

Year did an IPO 1995

Year became millionaire 1990

Favorite charity Khela Ghar, an orphanage in Calcutta

Lifetime goals To help eradicate illiteracy in India

Net worth Over $50M

Philosophy of life We are born to serve our fellow man

Most inspired by Swamy Vivekananda

Most excited by New technical challenges

Most expensive thing ever bought A four-bedroom house in Monroe, CT.

Almost 30 years ago, Santanu Das came to this country as a student with $28 in his pocket, after “borrowing money from friends for an air ticket.”

He went far on it. After receiving a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Washington University (St. Louis) in 1973, he started his career at ITT Corporation in Ohio and was soon absorbed by ITT Advanced Technology Center in Connecticut, where he was responsible for development of VLSI-based telephone switching companies, advanced technology development and workstation-based CAD systems.

When Micom Digital Corporation took over ITT’s Spectrum Digital Corporation in 1986, Das was Spectrum Digital’s vice president of engineering operations division. “I was promoted to the position of president of Micom Digital during the merger,” recalls Das. But that’s just the time he chose to quit in order to join three others in starting Transwitch, a semiconductor company “with half a million dollars in funding from friends.” In 1989, a Boston venture capital company invested $1.8 million in the venture, and the company had its initial public offering in June 1995.

The company has come a long way since its beginnings. According to analysts, this year’s revenue for the company is estimated at $115 million, which brings the profit level up to $5 billion. But, according to Das, the company has gone through a lot of ups and downs — and he is prepared to face more of the same.

“On the West coast people start businesses for money,” he says. “On the East coast, we believe that money is just a good byproduct.”

The 55-year-old, born in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and raised in India, says he owes his success to India, the country that was his refuge. He also credits the United States for his success, whose taxpayers “paid his tuition fees.” He says, “It’s my moral obligation to repay America and India in whichever way I can.”

Das completed his bachelors degree in electrical engineering at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. He has instituted a scholarship in Cachar, where his family took refuge after the partition, for students on the basis of need rather than merit.

Minding his self-described moral obligation to both countries, he has also instituted need-based scholarships in the United States. He is currently a board member of Housatonic Community College and the Trinity College, both in Connecticut.

While maintaining an orphanage “Khel Ghar” (or the “Play House”), he has also undertaken to help the cancer hospital in Calcutta by providing funds regularly and also upgrading equipment. Das helps through periodic camps by his brother for breast cancer screening in and around Calcutta.

He describes another pet project: “We are also trying to develop an inexpensive filter to purify the water. Water in Bengal is contaminated from arsenic content.”

When not globetrotting as the president, CEO and board chairman of Transwitch, Das is home with his wife Kabita and two sons Atanu and Arnab.

Das is currently at work on developing voice recognition software. It is just a hobby, as assembling transistor radios was to him at the age of 15.

Ria Williams

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