The date is 29 June 1768; the place is the notary public in Paramaribo, Suriname.
The occasion is the birth of what would one day be a conglomerate spanning 19 companies, 5 industries and providing employment for over 600 people. It was on this day that Christoph Kersten bought the building that would house the tailoring service and manufacturing business that would become the first of many future commercial enterprises creating value under the C. Kersten en Co. N.V. flag.
Stakeholder-driven from the start 1781-1868
From the start, Kersten would focus its commercial activities in the areas of providing services and goods. These would not only create profits, but served society as a whole. It is this early dedication to what we today call “stakeholder-based business practice” that motivated Kersten to create such businesses as the Kersten Bakery, the Kersten Grocery Store, Kersten Bookstore, Kersten Furniture Store and Kersten Building Materials Store. Each of the above-mentioned businesses provided in the various needs of the society in its different developmental growth stages. All of the above businesses were developed during the first 100 years of Kersten’s existence and served as a testimony to the loyalty that had been developed by providing quality service at justified prices.
Profile of a young company
After having established itself as a responsible and valuable corporate citizen, Kersten continued to make a difference whenever possible. It was Kersten, which as one of the first companies in Suriname, started to give its employees Christmas bonuses. It was Kersten which, when the food shortage of 1846 struck, commissioned a ship to sail from New York to Suriname to feed the city. It was Kersten, which brought a piece of quiet to the centre of Paramaribo by purchasing what today is known as “CKC Warenhuis” and closing the then raucous bar known as “Tutti Frutti Bar”. It was this style of combining entrepreneurship with social responsibility that has been present throughout the years making Kersten not only a force for development in the Surinamese community, but has shaped it in real terms into a “Pillar of Surinamese society”.
World War I
Kersten and World War I
Kersten persevered even in times of War. Although times were tough, and both import and export experienced a dramatic drop in volumes, Kersten laboured through this time by focusing its efforts on importing much needed grains and by continuing to develop its social agenda. It was during this time that Kersten continued to develop social programs like the first local internship program and the employee housing program that enabled Kersten employees to purchase houses through an internal financing facility. At the end of the First World War in 1918, Kersten was exactly 150 years old and was ready to face the next set of challenges.
World War II
Kersten and World War II 1919-1945
When the Second World War broke out, Kersten was ready to play its part. Even though Kersten was placed under control of the “Commission Rechtsverkeer”, the company delivered an important contribution to the projects initiated by the armed forces. Under the leadership of Ir. De Kraker and Ir. Reitsma, Kersten supplied the heavy machinery needed to expand Zanderij Airport, built the necessary roads that led to the Zanderij Airport, and supported the companies that produced the much needed bauxite and alumina.
The road to maturity
The face of a company moving into adulthood 1946-1968
After having endured the challenges presented by the First and Second World War and the economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s, Kersten was ready to enter into its next phase of development. As the Surinamese community was reinventing itself, and modernizing, along with the rest of the world, its needs and desires changed. Where in previous times the focus of the community was geared towards satisfying such basic needs like food, shelter and education, its focus was now shifting towards more modern desires. Once again it was Kersten, who would venture to satisfy these desires. Kersten’s response to the changing desires would manifest itself through companies such as the first Surinamese Supermarket called HOLA, the opening of what would later be known as Hotel Krasnapolsky and the first department store that is in operation to this day.
The changing face
The changing face of Suriname 1968-2008
By the end of the 20th century and at the dawn of the 21st, Suriname is once again reinventing itself by slowly moving away from a primary materials-based economy towards a service-driven economy with eco-tourism as an important growth industry. Although this transformation will take time, and Suriname is only at the beginning of this process, it is once again Kersten which is taking the lead and serving as an example of Surinamese innovation and executing power. To better serve its customers and the community at large, Kersten redefined its companies and its products by aligning them into “Divisions” that focus not on individual products, but on delivering “Solutions” to her customers. These divisions have been launched successfully and are moving along the spectrum towards delivering the “Total Solutions” package that only Kersten can provide.
Kersten from then, untill now and beyond...
Kersten was founded in 1768 and is one of the most diversified companies in Suriname, with 14 companies divided into five divisions. As one of the oldest trading companies in the Western Hemisphere, Kersten has always proudly relied on the trust of the community. She was always encouraged by her community and market-oriented vision, based in the same high morals and standards as its foundation. All subsidiaries are limited liability companies with more than 500 employees and experience in the trade, industry and real estate. The sole shareholder of the Kersten Concern is the Moravian Church Foundation (MCF) Business Enterprises BV. Kersten has developed strong ties with the community of Suriname and is committed to structurally create sustainable value for its customers, employees and shareholders.