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150 years of Market Expansion Services

In 2015, DKSH is celebrating its 150th anniversary. We are going to take you on a journey from the company’s mid-19th century origins, making a short layover in the present before heading into the future.

The DKSH story charts the path of globalization. For 150 years, DKSH has embarked on a successful journey to become the leading Market Expansion Services (MES) group with a focus on Asia. En route, DKSH has created solutions to myriad business challenges. By doing so, the firm has constantly reinvented itself to meet the evolving needs of clients and customers in Asia.


The DKSH journey began in 1865. Asia’s vast, untapped opportunities encouraged three adventurous Swiss entrepreneurs to journey into the unknown. Caspar Brennwald (who later partnered with Hermann Siber-Hegner), Wilhelm Heinrich Diethelm and Eduard Anton Keller followed the prevailing advice of the day to: “go east, young man.” Independently, they sailed the oceans and endured many setbacks to reach new territories in Asia.

The three adventurers established flourishing trading houses. In 1865, Siber & Brennwald was founded in Yokohama, Japan. In the Philippines in 1868, Eduard Anton Keller joined C. Lutz & Co. in Manila, which he acquired in 1887 and renamed Ed. A. Keller & Co. And in Singapore, Wilhelm Heinrich Diethelm joined Hooglandt & Co. in 1871, which he took over in 1887 and set-up Diethelm & Co. Ltd.


By the turn of the 20th century, Siber & Brennwald was a leading player in the silk export industry. In Singapore, garment trading was the soul of Diethelm & Co. Ltd, and in the Philippines, Ed. A. Keller & Co. focused on importing consumer goods. Their business achievements saw the entrepreneurs assume diplomatic responsibilities to help build Switzerland’s commercial interests. Caspar Brennwald became the first Swiss representative in Japan and Eduard Anton Keller was appointed Consul in Manila.

The three founding fathers had created strong legacies for the next generation, but the 20th century presented formidable challenges with two world wars, the Great Depression, social unrest, natural disasters, plus unprecedented economic prosperity.

In 1923, Japan’s Great Kanto Earthquake and the onset of the Great Depression destabilized SiberHegner & Co. It was transformed into a public limited company headquartered in Zurich, and Willy M. Keller came onboard as shareholder and Vice Chairman in 1932. Meanwhile, Diethelm & Co. had expanded its South East Asian footprint, opening offices in Penang (Malaysia), Saigon (Vietnam) and Bangkok (Thailand), and recorded strong growth, particularly in the travel industry.


The final quarter of the 20th century rejuvenated Asia’s economic landscape, with China starting to open up and the Tiger Economies delivering impressive growth. The three companies prospered and doubled and even tripled turnover, but in 1997 the Asian Financial Crisis was a costly wake-up call.

Ties between the Diethelm and Keller dynasties dated back to the early 20th century, so when the fourth generation of the two families collaborated to chart their companies’ future, they did so with a strong sense of tradition. The founding of Diethelm Keller Holding Ltd. on June 16, 2000, was a testament to changing times. Around the same time, SiberHegner was successfully restructured, and posted a record profit in 2001. Diethelm Keller Holdings' Board of Directors monitored the turnaround, and negotiations began to repeat the exercise by merging the two companies that were well matched in terms of service offerings and country coverage.


On June 19, 2002, the merger between Diethelm Keller and SiberHegner was completed, forming the DKSH Group. By reinventing the conventional trading company and creating a distinctive new category:

Market Expansion Services (MES)

, DKSH has achieved strong annual growth each year since 2002 and created more than 13,500 jobs. The MES model has navigated a new path along the irreversible road to globalization. Our services take outsourcing to a new level, adding value for our clients and helping them to achieve unprecedented success in Asia.

To continuously improve our business model, DKSH concentrates on three main pillars. First, we expand existing markets and business units through organic growth, business development and rolling out success stories across Asia, complemented with strategic bolt-on acquisitions. Second, we continually strengthen and expand our range of service offerings across the entire value chain. Third, we continuously strive to improve the efficiency of our processes.

At DKSH, people are our most valuable asset. Today, our 27,600 people, representing 63 nationalities, work together in 35 countries. Each one positively touches the lives of millions of people by providing the products that meet their daily needs. DKSH is dedicated to empowering its people to grow personally and professionally. This is achieved through the

DKSH Fantree Academy

, a corporate in-house training and development center that offers Groupwide programs focused on core leadership capabilities and functional skills.


is perceived as the major topic of the 21st century and offers increased opportunities for companies to enhance growth, improve efficiencies and develop their business operations in new and existing markets. Digitization is reshaping and opening up new paths for companies to interact with and influence customers, using tools such as social media, digital marketing and big data analysis.

DKSH is well positioned to provide our clients and customers with the best mix of market expansion and digital transformation services. While digital specialists only serve specific steps of value creation, cross-regional MES providers like DKSH offer an integrated approach to supporting companies along the entire value chain and are in an optimal position to drive omni-channel market expansion.

By continually staying ahead of the game and adapting to new trends, we look forward to remaining the leading Market Expansion Services provider into the future.

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