Family Profile: Ika Family
• RAVI IKA, BOARD OF TRUSTEES 2015-2021
• POOJA IKA, CLASS OF 2015
When Ravi Ika P’15 reflects on the path he’s taken to become the supportive father and spouse, dedicated son and brother, and successful entrepreneur he is today, his thoughts turn to family.
When his daughter Pooja ’15 was about one month old, Ravi was getting his start-up company off the ground while working at Harvard’s School of Public Health. Meanwhile, his wife Gayatridevi was devoting long hours as a physician at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester. To help the family, Ravi’s parents emigrated from India to the U.S. When Pooja and her cousin Arya ’21 got older, Ravi’s parents greeted the children at the bus stop each day after school and taught them about their family’s traditions, culture, and language until their parents came home every evening.
Ravi’s brother, Prasad, helped him come to the United States to attend graduate school. In turn, Ravi assisted his brothers in moving from India to Southborough so that most of the family could be within walking distance of one another. When it was time for Pooja to choose a high school, Ravi wanted the same type of supportive family environment she experienced growing up.
“I knew I wanted to be close to home, because I had so much family here,” Pooja says. “I remember visiting St. Mark’s, and the moment I got there I felt like it was my home away from home.”
Despite her warm feelings for the School, Pooja admits she didn’t always feel comfortable at St. Mark’s. In many scenarios, she found herself as the only Indian student in the group. She knew, though, that she would have to come to terms with her situation in order to grow.
“I was very nervous and shy as a kid,” Pooja admits, “but in Indian culture there’s always this idea of being soft spoken. When I went to St. Mark’s, I saw a lot of diversity, and different races and cultures, and I was able to make friends from all over the country and the world. This helped me understand how to build relationships and have conversations with people who have different backgrounds than me, and I learned to be comfortable in my own skin.”
Being a member of the School’s soccer and tennis teams and participating in groups like the Black Student Union also helped Pooja learn to multitask and efficiently structure her day. For Arya, being on the School’s football, basketball, and baseball teams taught him how to bring structure to his life. Pooja thinks it was her academic experience that really helped her develop many of the skills essential to succeeding in life after St. Mark’s.
“My biology teacher, Ms. Lohwater, truly challenged me, and I have always been someone who needs tough love,” Pooja says. “After class one day, she said she saw my potential but didn’t see enough effort. I looked inward to think about what was holding me back, and realized it was my fear of not doing well. She encouraged and pushed me to be a better student. Ms. Matthews did too. Her strong personality and ability to extend her English lessons to the outside world kept me engaged and encouraged conversations in her class. I credit her with helping me become a better public speaker.”
Pooja also became more confident and outgoing, which, in turn, helped her father. In her VI Form year, Pooja attended a School conference at which John Sculley ’57 spoke about how he believed the next “moonshot” was going to be in healthcare, and mentioned that he had been supporting entrepreneurs in the healthcare industry.
“I told my dad about John, and he asked me to get his information because he was building nirvanaHealth, a cloud-based software platform that acts as a one-stop shop for health insurance companies. I approached John and told him about my dad’s company, and he was kind enough to give me his business card. Now John is the chairman of the board at nirvanaHealth.”
John has also become a family friend and mentor, and is now a welcomed visitor at Ravi’s home whenever he visits Southborough. When Pooja started her own health insurance company just before she graduated from Babson College in 2019, John became her advisor, helping her navigate the waters of the healthcare industry.
Ravi credits St. Mark’s for giving Pooja the experience she needed to lead a successful and productive life, and when he thinks about the School, he fondly remembers the conversations he and his daughter shared when he picked her up after school. So, it was important to Ravi that he stayed connected to St. Mark’s even after Pooja went to Babson.
“After Pooja left St. Mark’s, I got very emotional because of the connection she and I had formed there. When the School approached me and asked if I’d be on their board, I agreed and was happy to do so,” he says. “I served as a St. Mark’s trustee from 2015 to 2021, and my brother [Arya’s father], Krishna, is a current trustee.”
Pooja is also thankful for her time at St. Mark’s. She knows her experiences helped her develop her voice and become a strong and confident woman, and, much like her father, she never forgets about the strong family bonds that helped her along the way.
“My grandparents always emphasized the need to care for others,” she says. “That definitely influenced me in a positive way, and so did seeing my parents constantly go above and beyond for others, especially those in need. That is one of the reasons I have put a large emphasis on helping others in my life and work. It’s the foundation of our mission at eternalHealth, to help educate and empower those around us, because I do believe that there is a way to do right and be successful.” she says.