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April - 2000 - issue > Cover Feature
Pavan Nigam
Friday, November 21, 2008
Age 40

Place of Birth Kanpur

Residence Los Altos, CA

Family Wife Ruma, 7-year-old son Akash, 5-year-old daughter Sonia

Came to the U.S. 1980

Education BSEE-IIT-K (1980) and MSCS (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1982

First job and career Software engineer at Intel in 1982

Company started Healtheon in 1996

Year did an IPO 1999

Year became millionaire 1990

Favorite charity Learning Center in Kanpur

Lifetime goals Haven't figured out yet

Net worth - Over $100 million ($80 million in Healtheon stock, $5 million in real estate, over $20 million in other investments)

Philosophy of life At the end of the day, it is your family and

friends which matter the most

Most inspired by My dad who demonstrated that hard work and entrepreneurial instincts can take you a long way by evolving his street-side stall to the largest electronics store in Kanpur

Most excited by Watching my children learn and grow

Most expensive thing ever bought House

Although there may be no obvious connection between interactive television and health to most, for Pavan Nigam it was big. In such a merge, Nigam found a long-term friendship with Jim Clarke (of Silicon Graphics and Netscape fame) and the idea of marrying Internet and healthcare. Before long, Healtheon was born, now Healtheon/WebMD, the first end-to-end Internet healthcare company connecting patients to physicians to hospitals to insurers to employers and all other healthcare organizations.

Nigam met Clark after his move from Intel to Silicon Graphics, a company founded by Clark. He saw in Clark a motivator, visionary and an engineer. When funding wasn’t forthcoming because the world thought that 3D was meant only for scientists, Clark went ahead and formed Silicon Graphics on his own and when nobody was thinking about the Internet, he started Netscape. “He’s got a way of putting his arms through the fog and latching on to those nuggets,” said Nigam.

“Nobody was focusing on healthcare; healthcare was this boring thing on the side,” says Nigam, laughing. Today Healtheon/WebMD can be termed as a “very successful operation,” as it commands close to 50 percent of this market.

Nigam was exposed to the entrepreneurial spirit from early in his youth. His father, at the age of 18 and with an investment of Rs. 100, sold light bulbs, wires and sockets on the pavements of Kanpur. In the mid 1950s, his father set up shop manufacturing radios. With hard work, sweat and commitment, his tiny shop gradually evolved into one of the biggest and foremost consumer electric store in Kanpur. Nigam has fond memories of hours spent at the shop selling transistors and radios until he was chased out by his father, who admonished him to return to his studies.

As he grew up, engineering seemed to be an apparent choice to Nigam. He joined IIT Kanpur, partly influenced by a desire to be in close proximity with his tight-knit family.

IIT was a breeze, but he faced larger decisions just beyond it. Each member of his family wanted to voice his or her view on the career path Nigam, the youngest, should take. His dad wanted him to join the family business; his mother wanted him to continue studying at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; his sister was eager that he join the Indian Administration Services; and his brother, who was working in the Indian telephone industry, wanted him to join the corporate world.

Not wanting to displease anyone, the 20-year-old did it all; he spent time at his father’s shop, took — and passed — the IIM test at Ahmedabad, was selected for the IAS, and, while waiting for things to fall into place, joined Phillips. But, having heard wonderful stories from his friends’ parents, Nigam’s heart was set on America. Nigam owes his success to his supportive and encouraging wife, Ruma, whom he first met at a blind date.

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