In 1929, one of the young volunteers of the Indian National Congress had an epiphany. Nanik Motwane was noticing Mahatma Gandhi struggling to make sure that his voice was heard at big pro-independence meetings. Gandhiji would go from one platform to another in the same venue to get his voice heard by the huge mass that would gather, according to Motwane.

Motwane, the 27-year-old second-generation businessman, came up with a way to enable the amplification of the voice of Gandhiji so that all the people, especially the ones who were anxious to hear him, could listen to him.

After two years, Motwane came up with a public address system at the Karachi session of Congress. This was Chicago Radio. The Chicago Radio became the instrument that relayed India’s struggle for Independence. Nanik Motwane’s son Kiran Motwane said, “We called our loudspeakers the ‘voice of India’”.

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Chicago Radio was the name of a firm that was based in Bombay, where Nanik’s family had migrated to in 1919. Kiran recounted that his father had, with due permission, borrowed that name of the radio from a Chicago-based radio maker. The foreign name had appealed to them perhaps because the Motwanes were part of a globally networked community.

Nanik Motwane had imported the basic components of a public address system from the US and the UK, at first. After that, he and his team of 5 engineers reverse-engineered the parts for local purpose. Nanik’s siblings also helped him in the business. It is known that Nanik also travelled to party meetings with his Public Address system. He used to set up the system at the venues and made sure that there were enough batteries to power them.

Kiran Motwane said, “He was a pioneer of the public address systems in India and the party was the only consumer”.

Some of the most compelling speeches by the leaders of Indian Independence were relayed through the Chicago Radio loudspeakers. Nehru was very fond of the brand.

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Motwane supplied PA systems to dozens of public and party meetings of the Congress for around 3 decades, his family said. Chicago Radio had more than 200 employees all over the country, creating the PA systems in 2 cities and offering services to them in numerous others. He started selling these systems commercially till India achieved independence. He did not charge the party till the 1960s.