Hunt, Deltel was founded in 1937 by two prominent local businessmen, Percy Hunt and Alexandre Deltel, and was one of the earliest companies to be incorporated locally.
In 1937, Hunt, Deltel’s principle activity was handling commercial vessels representing Messageries Maritime and later Eastern Liner Services, which offered sailings from UK ports. In addition to this the company also offered the following services and products: insurance, trademark & registration, alcohol, cigars, household goods, sports goods, tyres, batteries and Ford vehicles.
‘King’ and ‘Captain’ share their story
Having completed his university education in the United States, Mr. King-Harman (MKH) was working back home in the UK when an associate of his, a Dutch investment banker, proposed that they jointly invest in a company in the Seychelles. Given MKH’s wish to start a business venture in an “interesting environment where (he) wouldn’t have to wear a coat and tie”, this proposal came at a fitting time. The twosome began negotiations with the Von Oswald family seeking to sell some of their shares.
MKH and his partner subsequently came to visit Mr. Deltel in Seychelles and confirmed the venture in 1972 when MKH came to run the operations at the age of 24. In true MKH fashion (as his friends and family will know) he quickly built his network of friends and contacts; during the daily operations of Hunt Deltel, rugby practice and renting water sports equipment on Beau Vallon. He remembers the days when it was quite standard for the waitresses to join patrons for a good go on the dancefloor at Pirates Arms in its heyday.
Mr. King-Harman’s initial aim was to build up the company and possibly sell it at a timely occasion. Little did he know he would still be in Seychelles over four decades on.
Mr. Houareau’s association with Hunt Deltel goes as far back as 1968 at the tender age of 18, as a young man aspiring to be a sea captain. Mr. Houareau embarked on his training in the British Merchant Navy, with Cunard Brocklebank, sponsored by, you guessed it, Hunt Deltel!
Mr. Houareau remembers paying courtesy calls to Mr. Deltel during his trips back home.
After qualifying as a Master Mariner, Mr. Houareau came back to Seychelles and worked in the Harbour Master’s office during which time he and Mr. King-Harman became well acquainted. It was indeed themselves who attended the daily port meetings at the time, something Hunt Deltel’s young shipping assistants may find quite surreal.
With Mr. Houareau seeking to spread his wings and Mr. King-Harman seeking a Seychellois partner, it was in fact the suggestion of a mutual friend which lead to what has become a long, solid partnership.
Do you remember your very first day with the company?
MKH – I don’t remember my first day exactly, but when I joined the company it was operating from an upstairs office in the small building on the corner of Revolution Avenue and Benezet Street. The office was without electricity. I am reminded of this every time I get in the lift to go up to our new office…how far we have come!
EHH – I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a chair on my first day! We shared an office in Victoria House back then.
Evidently, to say that these two gentlemen started from humble beginnings would be an understatement.
Which achievements would you most want the company to be known for?
MKH – It is difficult to put a finger on any specific achievements. It is safe to say however we tend to be the first mover in many of our chosen fields, or rather we have been instrumental in the development of the industries which we work in; the company was involved in the first insurance services, internet services, express international couriering, premier superyacht marina services, commercial fishing development, and commercial shipping development. Nevertheless we would like to think that our philosophy and what we would most like to be known for, is that whatever we do as a company, we do as a member of the community in which we live and work.
EHH – The company has grown alongside the country’s main industries. Our activities contribute to the country’s economy and we always think of our investments as investments in the country as well as in the company. We make a conscious effort to recognize the long-term benefits of our activities for both the company and our community.
The company and the industries it is part of, have greatly evolved over the years. What do you think has changed the most in the way the company is run?
MKH - The company has become more corporate; it is now formally structured, making it more transparent. When I joined the company it had only 6 employees excluding Mr. Deltel. Our workforce has expanded to around 180, plus 450 stevedores. Ownership of the company continues to evolve; we now have over 50 shareholders, many of them staff.
EHH – As the years have gone by we have given more authority to managers, empowering them to drive the business forward in their respective departments.
The industry is faster paced. In commercial shipping for example, vessels would call for longer in port and we would personally meet and greet the captain of cargo ships. It was customary to host them for lunch. Nowadays there is little interaction with cargo ships’ captains.
MKH – I delivered the first vehicle I sold personally to the buyer, who paid upfront in cash. That wouldn’t happen now! In any case the company has evolved from a trading company to a logistics provider.
EHH – I remember the days of telegrams, faxes and postcards instead of e-mails and facit machines instead of calculators!
Is there a decade which stands out in your memory for being the most enjoyable in your career and why?
EHH – Things just keep getting more and more exciting! (He laughs)
MKH – The start of commercial fishing in Seychelles was the biggest game changer. Hunt Deltel as shipping agent was even involved in the very first exploratory missions by the French who came to assess the potential for commercial fishing in Seychelles. The activities which followed that have all contributed to the company’s growth…containerization…the development of stevedoring. Again, it is hard to single out one period when so much has happened over the years.