A Diwiks speaker may look like a well-restored antique radio, but in addition to being a handmade, head-turning showpiece, the Bluetooth device delivers high-quality sound.
For Diwik Singh Chhalani, the man behind the brand, sound is, and always has been, at the centre of everything.
Having built 75 speakers in five years, Chhalani is a perfectionist in no hurry. He is only willing to take your order if you have the time. He and his team of three craftsmen work from a studio adjoining his ancestral home in Bikaner, a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
On a visit home to Bikaner after having quit his advertising job in Delhi in 2015, Chhalani chanced upon his grandfather's old radio. Fascinated by its design and form, and the memories it held, he took it back with him to Delhi and set about restoring it.
The first step was to take it apart and that was something Chhalani was familiar with. As a child, he would often follow his uncle around the house and assist him as he fixed and tinkered with things.
With the help of an electrician and carpenter, Chhalani successfully restored his family heirloom. A handful of radio restorations followed, but he knew he was on to something bigger. Working with sound technicians in Mumbai and Hong Kong, Chhalani created a state-of-the-art speaker unit, and Diwiks was born.
"The idea was to compress tower or bookshelf speakers into a single frame," Chhalani tells The National. Each Diwiks unit has a two-channel stereo system and customised kevlar cone drivers that ensure all audio details are captured entirely. In 2016, he made his first sale to a friend and since then he hasn't looked back.
"My grandfather was a jugaadu [ingenious] and had an engineering bent of mind. He helped villagers create a smoke-free chimney. In our village we were the first house to have a radio, car and television. The radio was bought in the 1960s around the time my father was born," he says.
While the look and feel of a Diwiks is a nod to a bygone era, the speakers have been designed to fit into a modern home. Wood is the preferred material of choice, as it's a good conductor of sound.
It's no ordinary wood, though. It's seasoned Burma teak sourced from grand havelis, or opulent mansions that were once an emblem of Bikaner.
An erstwhile trading hub, Bikaner was an important stop on the ancient silk route connecting Europe to China. With time, business slowed down and many of the families moved on, abandoning their mansions. One such haveli captured Chhalani's imagination. "I was always drawn to Kastur Niwas, a building opposite my home. I thought that one day I will buy it and do something with it," he says.
That dream never materialised, however, as Kastur Niwas was sold and eventually demolished. The 'Kastur Niwas' collection of speakers is made with reclaimed wood that he managed to salvage from the mansion. They also feature design ideas inspired by the Art Deco elements found in the interior and on the exterior of the building, such as statement inlay lines created with oleander wood.
Fine craftsmanship is a hallmark of Bikaner, and Chhalani and his team ensure their work carries forward this legacy. Senior artisan Ustad Mainuddin hails from a family of karigars (craftsmen) who had travelled to India from Iran in the 16th century.
They were known for their intricate painting and polishing skills. From havelis and heritage hotels to vintage trains, Mainuddin's work is varied and exciting.
For Chhalani and his team the process and end product comes above all else. The team makes no compromise often taking a piece apart after days of work, going back to the drawing board and creating something that meets their expectations.
From the colour of the cloth that covers the drivers, to the polish and colour of the wood, each unit is unique and customised for the client. Taking inspiration from products that were built to last, he says: "Design in the past was always simple, the aesthetic was rooted and familiar. A nicely made outfit would be worn by at least two generations."
Steering clear of following a cookie-cutter approach, Chhalani's pace and scale has been regarded as unambitious. But he's quick to point out: "I am very ambitious because I am making something that I want your grandchildren to use."
If repeat orders are a strong validation of quality and fine craftsmanship, Chhalani and his team have hit the mark. One buyer came back and ordered 21 pieces to give to his close friends and family. Another happy customer, Sunitha Kumar Emmart, owner of art space Galleryske, helped Chhalani to showcase his work at last year's India Art Fair.
"A buyer who buys a Diwiks knows what good sound is and has access to the best out there," Chhalani says. "Our sound is a surprise. It's not the most talked-about feature of our product and deliberately so. It's the secret ingredient that it meant to surprise you."