Aug 5, 2012

Why every entrepreneur should read Harry Potter

A quick question to start with – Have you read the Harry Potter books already? If yes, you will not need my help with the Potter jargon and you might as well find this post interesting, especially if you are an entrepreneur of some sorts, considering the angle in which I have tried to bring out this article. If you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend it if you have the habit of reading and I can give you an assurance that it is not, as per the general perception of most non-readers, an over-rated childish story.

I always have a special feeling about Harry Potter and I just feel that the time has not come yet for it to be unanimously accepted by all reading community as a classic. This is a usual problem that many contemporaries face since the work would not have been time-tested yet. People would have even debated about the quality of Iliad or Ulysses or the Lord of the Rings series when they were initially published. As they withstood the test of time and passed on to our generations, we accept their classic status without a question and some even go on to stack them in the most inaccessible corners of our book shelves.

In my native language Tamil, I can draw the analogy of the most recent cult-classic- Kalki’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, which was initially published as a long and continuous story in a magazine that came every week. I can imagine how the story would have fascinated readers back then and made them waiting for the next edition of the magazine to catch the story’s next chapter. This is a fascinating story that made me sit and read about 2000 pages at one go in 3-4 days. I can see the pride in some old timers even now when they say that they read the Ponniyin Selvan in the magazine version and that pride emanates from being a contemporary witness to a classic in its creation stage. Many of them have even went on to name their kids after certain lead characters in Ponniyin Selvan. For all we know, we might be the generation that names their kids Harry, Albus or Severus* and speak proudly about the experience of waiting for the release of the next Potter book in the future.

I do have to admit that the magic of the Harry Potter series was diluted to the best possible extent by those who made it into a movie. Every Potter fan will agree with me if I say that except for Emma Watson*, nothing was more attractive in the movies than my imagination from reading the book. I dearly wish that the script inspires a Nolanesque film-maker some ten years from now and he can do what Nolan did to the Batman legend or what Peter Jackson did to the Lord of the Rings.

What raa Nolan ? You won't make Harry Potter movies and all a?

Now that my case for the Harry Potter has been rested, let us move on to the experience of the book and how it fits into the entrepreneurship domain. I developed this strange habit of drawing analogies and creating little fantasies about Potter when I was reading the book. I used to wonder if there would be a hidden platform* at Central Station in Chennai; what if my college had as many unexplored places as the Hogwarts* and even why we can’t have a Yule Ball* in college. There are also  many interesting product and business ideas in the Potter books as well – for example there is this spectacles with an attached wiper in it so that bespectacled people like me can enjoy the rain without compromising on eyesight. I dearly wish that this product be marketed by some glass maker and sold at Aadi Discount prices here :-)

In business, I sincerely believed that there will be a Portkey* to success in business which will show itself to the truly dedicated. Entrepreneurship, as I moved on, showed many analogies to the story of Potter and some observations I made from the Potter story helped me face certain situations in the entrepreneurial journey with good composure. I can list the three most noteworthy points here.

The Boggart and the Riddikulus:-

The Boggart is a wizard-world beast that can change its shape at will to that thing which a person fears the most. Hence, when confronted by a Boggart, people usually see their worst fears in front of them and start shaking. The Riddikulus charm is the defence against Boggarts wherein the defender has to simply focus and ridicule the Boggart and imagine it in the funniest manner possible. Of course, there is also some magic involved but it is mostly a mind game.

I have often wondered what form a Boggart would take in front of me and I can almost immediately see a black dog chasing me. I am still working on my defence against the dog phobia. That apart, this concept has helped me tide over fears in business along the entrepreneurial journey. At some points, if you just start thinking about your worst fears with some good humour, your mood gets better and you can start focussing on the task at hand. For an entrepreneur, it will invariably boil down to making up some good humour out of penniless situations in life and he who can do that comfortably can tide over the initial hard days of entrepreneurship with his good spirits and smiles intact. Sometimes, an entrepreneur’s Boggart can even take the shape of some challenging clients or unaccepting in-laws!

The Dementors and the Patronus:-

Dementors are a more potent threat and as per the book, these are hopeless evil creatures (ya, literally hopeless) which attack one’s soul and take away all the cheer and hope from one’s mind. It fills the victim’s mind with sorrow, despair, frustration and self-pity to the extent that the victim becomes just the living-dead. Entrepreneurship will most certainly challenge one with desperations and hopeless dark corners in life and the best defence against these business dementors will be what J.K. Rowling prescribes – the Patronus charm!
The Patronus charm again is mostly a mind thing with some magical technique involved. Let me tell you the mind part. To tackle a dementor, one has to focus his mind on the happiest moment in one’s life and retain the memory of that moment very intensely while uttering the charm ‘Expecto Patronum’ with the prescribed wand movement. A cloud of silvery smoke comes out of the wand and creates a shield against the dementor attack and this shield’s impenetrability depends on the intensity of the happy moment which conjured this shield. This shield will also take on a custom shape of an animal for each wizard and this is where Rowling throws in some personalization in the tale too.

In real life, there may be no wands and silver smoke but still the dementors and the Patronus defence exist in principle. The soul of an entrepreneur is his hope and when the belief is attacked by doubts and desperations, one simply needs to hang in there and conjure the best possible shield against them. I have personally tried the Patronus technique where I just start diverting my attention to the successful and happy memories in business and life in general. Hope is all that matters and it is a good practice to live and relive the happy moments in our lives every now and then to recharge our batteries, especially when we need them to be at full capacity while facing trouble.

Help will come:-

This is the most important mantra that I have learned in my entrepreneurial journey so far. When the pursuit is sincere, help will eventually come, at times from the most unexpected corners! Harry Potter is famously notorious for landing up in trouble and in most times it may not be due to his own making. He places his belief very firmly in the cause for which he is fighting and in his Principal Albus Dumbledore who is a Godly figure to him and every time he just wills himself to fight on. Dumbledore once explains to him that when most needed, help will come to him and he only has to keep on fighting. This situation can be seen very frequently in the story when Potter faces a near dead-end and suddenly help comes to him in one of the many forms* – the phoenix, the Griffindor sword, good friends, the silver doe etc.

In business, these near dead-ends are a common happening in the initial few years. What is more important is that one retains the belief in his cause and wills himself to carry on. Eventually help will come and I can say this from personal experiences too. In fact, literature lovers will also have heard of Paulo Coelho’s version of this – ‘Follow your dreams passionately and the whole world will conspire to help you’ and similar versions of this mantra can even be quoted from religious texts. To put it in a more ‘cool’ manner, from Potter in this case, all entrepreneurs should do well to remember this mantra when faced with a near dead-end and just believe that it will all work out well in the end if they persist. They may get a new lead or an investor might suddenly call back on second thoughts showing interest or a long-forgotten business card can suddenly serve the purpose of a lifetime for you. Remember, just keep believing and say calmly – JAI HARRY POTTER!

Beyond all, I strongly believe entrepreneurship is the second closest thing to magic (slightly clichéd but I would rate love first) in real life and I believe I am leading a magical life (courtesy: my start-up – Spark n’ Beyond). Not to sound arrogant by any means, this magic will be felt in an even more pronounced manner when an entrepreneur happens to tell his tale to the muggles!*

This post is written on the eve of the second anniversary of my start-up Spark n’  Beyond as I am recounting the magic I am living for the past two years and the interesting moments I came across in this journey. Of course I would love to have a Hermione by my side in this journey. But unfortunately, I have to be content with Google for all information-related assistance for now.


Glossary: (for those who have not read the Harry Potter books)

*1 – Harry. Albus or Severus – first names of some lead characters in the story
*2 - Emma Watson – Actress who portrayed the role of Hermione, the most knowledgeable witch and one of Harry Potter’s best friends
*3 - hidden platform – the story features an invisible platform 9 and three quarters at King’s Cross railway station in London from where people can board a train to the school of witchcraft and wizardry - Hogwarts
*4 – Hogwarts – the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where Harry Potter studies
*5 - Yule Ball – a High School Prom dance equivalent at the Hogwarts
*6 – Portkey – a mode of magical transport where an enchanted object can transport a person to a fixed destination by merely touching the object
*7 – The Phoenix, the Griffindor Sword, the silver doe – Good! If you are interested in knowing what these things mean, it is time you buy your copy of the book soon.. Happy reading J
*8 – Muggles – non-magic folk 


  1. Having a own baby myself, I can quite relate how Mathi feels about his entrepreneurial journey so far.

    Certainly, clients should be dementors? They are the ones who kiss you, and they are the ones who suck the life out of you.

    1. Thanks Anand ... The client comparison comes only with reference to Boggarts in a lighter vein here :-) Seyyum thozhile dheivam!

  2. Nice one da... lots of interestin points... glass with wiper, Central station, Chris nolan kinda HP movie ...i haven't read a single Harry Potter book, only a few movies and lost interest(except for Hermione)...but comparing HP to Ponniyin Selvan.. is it that good???

    1. Thanks Raghu .. Don't judge the series by the movies da.. Having read both, I can confidently say HP is in the league of Ponniyin Selvan... If I can spot a flaw in it, there are many similarities in the plot to the Lord of the Rings series ... Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this as a good read

  3. Semma na.. Patronas charm is brought out so well. Jai Harry Potter!