03 Aug 2016 13:15 IST

Blessed curse of secrecy spells yet another Harry Potter blockbuster

Secure printing and deliveries ensure no book leaks before launch; trade orders hit 2 lakh copies

JK Rowling’s new book and the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was released worldwide midnight on July 31 at precise embargoed times. This is the first time a Harry Potter book has ever been printed in India (or indeed Asia), in absolute secrecy. The publisher, Hachette India, went to great lengths to keep the printing of the book at Manipal Technologies, in the education hub near the temple town of Udupi, under wraps.

Most of those working on the project in the printing unit spread over 3 lakh sq ft in Manipal in July this year were not aware that they would be part of a book production which the world was waiting eagerly for. A smash hit already, Hachette India Managing Director, Thomas Abraham, says the orders from trade have already touched two lakh copies. It also had the highest consumer pre-orders for a hardback book with an estimated 50,000 copies booked online and in stores before release.

The printing as is typical for a Harry Potter book was done in absolute secrecy, in compartments so that even the staff at the Press did not know what was being printed. The jacket cover was done in a different cordoned off area. Post binding, the books were securely stored away and then sent to regional hubs all over India also in secrecy to await D-day, or in this case P-day.

On the day of release, individual trucks (only one truck was used to a single delivery destination) moved out all over India and parked near the delivery location. At the scheduled time, the Hachette operations team, along with the transport company coordinator, called all the trucks and gave them the go-ahead to start making deliveries. All deliveries were made simultaneously to all destinations pan-India. “We had a near perfect all-India record with just Bengaluru being served a little later than scheduled,” says Abraham.

Asked how the company maintained security and secrecy, Shashi Ranjan, Business Head, Commercial Printing Division at MTL, told BusinessLine, “We do the process in such a way that just a small core team is in the know, with a whole lot of measures to keep the project secure,” he said, adding that there was a huge responsibility to keep something confidential where more than 1,800 people work. This involved 24x7 access control, electronic and physical surveillance with a complete ban on the use of electronic devices and mobile phones on the premises to ensure an embargo-compliant environment.

The entire process began in early July, while the printing itself was done in less than 10 days — a record turnaround for a hardback. The publisher did not print it in any other Asian country, says Ranjan, with pride.

Abraham says the legal firm Sen & Oberoi, which specialises in IPR issues, has been retained by Hachette to tackle physical piracy. “So if there is a piracy report, they will swing into action with the city police forces who are being very cooperative driving the raids. Mark Monitor is the global agency monitoring digital piracy,” he added.