Japanese Company Rakuten’s Global English Expansion

E-commerce and Internet Company based in Japan, Rakuten Inc is one of the largest companies of its nature. The company was established in February 1997 by CEO Hirosh Mikitani under the name of MDM Inc. Rakuten is the Japanese word for optimism and the company changed its name to this in June 1999. It is quite a fitting name because Mikitani was quite optimistic about the potential growth of the company. His optimism was proven valid when the company topped revenues of US$4.6 billion in 2012 and today the company now boasts a total of 10,351 employees worldwide.

The Rakuten English Team

For those, who want to know more about the Japanese online store, I suggest that you familiarise yourself with the Rakuten Japan English guide. This easy guide, should help you to convert the original Japanese Rakuten’s e-commerce shop to the English language easily. Obviously the global expansion and the original website are very different entities. The later being one of the biggest online stores not only in Japan but in the rest of the world. So remember to check that out too.

Global Expansion

The Japanese company began to expand beyond Japan in 2005 through acquisitions and joint ventures. In that year, the company bought popular performance-based online sales and marketing network, Linkshare based in the United States. They rebranded the company as Rakuten Linkshare. In 2010, Rakenten Inc bought French online retailer Priceminister, United States company Buy.com, and announced its joint venture with Chinese company, Baidu.

In 2011, Rakuten made major strides in its quest for global expansion. The company launched the joint venture Rakuten Belanja Online in Indonesia. They also acquired the Brazillian ecommerce firm Ikeda. In July of that same year, the company acquired German ecommerce site, Tradoria and renamed it Rakuten Deutschland. September came with the acquisition of UK online retailer Play.com which Rakuten bought for approximately $41 million, along with the acquisition of a minority equity stake in Russian online retailer Ozon.ru which has commonly been referred to as ‘Russia’s Amazon’. This was a major deal since in Ozon.ru reported sales worth US$137 million.

In 2012, Rakuten made English the company’s official language in an effort to increase its global reach and competitiveness. The company continued expansions and acquisitions when it bought Canadian ebook reader company Kobo. In May, Rakuten became the leading business investor, investing $100 million in Pinterest, one of the largest picture sharing social networks in the world. The other investors in this deal were some existing investors namely, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, among a number of investment ‘angels’. That investment significantly increased Pinterest’s presence in Japan and a number of other global markets. In June, Rakuten bought Wuaki.tv one of the largest video on demand services in Europe and the market leader in Spain. It opened new opportunities, directly challenging Amazon, Netflix and others for domination of the global VOD market. Rakuten also bought Aquafadas, one of the then leading French digital publishing and technology companies in October. By late 2012, Rakuten had also moved into online retail in Austria, Canada, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand and into the online travel markets in France, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan.

2013 was another great year for Rakuten when they acquired citzen-commerce site Daily Gourmet, U.S.-based logistics and services company Webgistix, and Singapore-based company Viki. The following year, they acquired  Viber for $900 million,  launched a new scheme for US-based e-tailers, acquired UK-based technology company DC Storm, purchased e-commerce app Slice, and they also acquired major rebates website Ebates for $1billion.

Today in its group, Rakuten Inc has approximately forty companies in a variety of different industries including online retail, banking/credit/payments, media, travel, securities, professional sports and entertainment. The incorporated company continues to grow with each passing year. As CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, leads his company into new markets and industries, we’re excited to see what comes next from the English business model of Rakuten.

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