Jawaharlal Nehru in a 1950 ad for Chicago Telephone & Radio

It is not very common to find living prime ministers being featured in advertisements for commercial products (but it is also not very common not to find their faces in sarkari ads).

We all remember Chicago Telephone & Radio from the vintage films and photographs from the pre-and-post Independence era.

When Lata Mangeshkar sang the song (Aye mere watan ke logon) in honour of the lost soldiers in the 1962 war with China that brought tears to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s (and millions of Indian’s thereafter) eyes, the melodious voice reached the ears of the janata via a microphone supplied by Chicago Telephone & Radio.

Almost all prominent leaders of India’s Independence movement addressed the masses through equipment supplied by Chicago Telephone & Radio, including illustrious names such as, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Vallabhbhai Patel.

This was because Chicago Telephone & Radio was entrusted with public address system arrangements for Indian National Congress since 1929. The company was founded by Gianchand Chandumal Motwane in 1909 as Motwane Private Limited in Sukkur, Sindh (now Pakistan). Motwane later shifted to Karachi and then to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1919 to set up Chicago Telephone Supply Co. The company, in 1926, was renamed as Chicago Telephone & Radio Co.

The company is still around, supplying equipment to government and private bodies. Their office in Kolkata (Calcutta) still seems to be at the same place at 25, Jawaharlal Nehru Road (what was back then known as 25, Chowringhee).

This advertisement is from the January 28, 1950 edition of The Times of India (Delhi) and has the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, garlanded and with a tilak on his forehead and the tricolour in the background, speaking to a gathering through a Chicago Telephone & Radio mike.

Jawaharlal Nehru in a 1950 ad for Chicago Telephone & Radio

Chicago Radio loud speaker equipment and experience have always been called upon to serve whenever people have gathered to hear great men speak, for the last 27 years.
We supply
* Everything in electric
* Telephones talkies
* Radios and spares
* Cinema & studio equipments
* Radio & electric test equipments for education and research
* Broadcasting and communication equipment
Chicago Telephone & Radio Co., Ltd.
First in broadcasting - Estd. 1909
127, M Gandhi Road
Fort, Bombay I.
Phone 30937 (3 lines)
25, Chowringhee
Calcutta
Phone: Bank 1953
48, Hazratganj
Lucknow
Phone 860
68, Queensway,
New Delhi
Phone 7179
Mount Road, Madras
Telegrams: CHIPPHONE All places

Such advertisements today may cause a flutter, but then it was a new nation and everyone was celebrating the newly formed republic. And celebrations do lend some concessions.