Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten aims for an ‘ecosystem’

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Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten is branching out.

Following an announcement of a new partnership with Walmart to launch an online grocery delivery service, the company announced this week it had received approval from the Japanese government to enter the mobile network operator business.

Speaking to CNBC’s Akiko Fujita on Wednesday, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said the mobile business is a “very, very important” platform for services from e-commerce to content.

That’s why there’s a trend of mergers between content and networks in deals such as Verizon buying Yahoo, Mikitani said.

“In the future, we’re going to see the conversion of network platforms and content and transactions.”

As for Rakuten’s ambitions in Japan’s crowded telecommunications space, Mikitani said lower capital costs from new technologies and his company’s proven track record in other businesses make him optimistic.

At present, Rakuten sees about $120 billion in global transactions, and Mikitani said the goal is not just to have a shopping platform.

With the inclusion of the telecommunications business, the Walmart partnership, and the acquisition of Asahi’s insurance business, the company is seeking to build out a full lineup of services, he said.

“It’s all about ecosystem,” he told CNBC.

Using China’s Tencent as an example of a company “going everywhere” in consumer services, Mikitani said his firm is attempting to follow a similar trajectory. Partnerships such as the one with Walmart, he said, are likely to become more common in the future.

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