In 1997, the earliest online shopping malls were quite limited as they were mainly web versions of catalog shopping. When I revealed my blueprint to create a new business, many senior company managers I knew was quite pessimistic about my chances. I can still remember one comment I received, "Even major companies have failed in such attempts to build an online shopping mall. You have no chance of making it".
Regardless of the feedback I received, I realized that no one around me had noticed the huge potential of my business model and this gap in thinking would provide me with a chance for victory. For a week, I submerged myself in my future plans and came to an important realization: the answer to my business model was not to have 'system-savvy people run the business' but to create a system that allows for 'ordinary people skilled in retail selling' to open their own online shops. Simply put, it was the concept of the Internet marketplace, or Ichiba.
We decided to develop our own proprietary system. With this system we presented the joy of shopping on the Internet. This combination of our system and the joy of shopping is the very source of Rakuten's success. Our greatest strength comes from the confidence we gained by developing our business with our own hands.
When I was working at the Industrial Bank of Japan (now Mizuho Corporate Bank), I enrolled in Harvard Business School. I learned that starting your own business is the ultimate luxury of vision. I realized that the happiest place for a business man to work is a place where you can demonstrate your skills to the fullest extent. With that thought in mind, I founded Rakuten. At Rakuten, because we created this business ourselves, a culture of entrepreneurialism is in our DNA. For people who are looking to perform to the highest possible level, Rakuten is the best place for them.
Our goal is not becoming No.1 in Japan but becoming the No.1 Internet services company in the world.
A study tells us that Japanese GDP as a portion of global GDP will shrink from 12% in 2006 to 3% in 2050. As we consider the future potential growth of the Japanese market, global implementation is not a nice-to-have but a must-do so that we can continue to grow.
Rakuten Group plans to deploy operations in 27 countries and areas in the future and raise the overseas portion in the total distribution amount of Rakuten Group to 70%. It is only natural that we deploy our operations globally since the speed and scale for growth is greater overseas than in Japan.
What we require to succeed is the sharing of strong service models, strong operations, strong strategies, strong business conduct guideline, and strong technologies. As we deploy our service models overseas, we will value service models that are in line with target countries and markets and give precedence to the initiatives of each company.
At the same time, we will make Rakuten Shugi permeate the whole group and create a solid, collaborative, and strong organization.
We provide around 40 services encompassing EC, travel, banking, and securities business. These services have closely shared information on successful business models, web designs, and marketing best practices so that the whole Rakuten Group can continually raise service level and improve customer satisfaction.
We need to implement this thorough information sharing on a global scale. As we aim to be the world's best Internet Services Company, the initiative of using English as the official language of the group is one small but critical step required.
Rakuten Group is serious about becoming the world's No.1 Internet services company. We will face many challenges to achieve this goal. However, repeatedly overcoming issues through trial and error will enable us to create a stronger organization. I believe that it is Rakuten Group's mission to achieve this goal and empower people around the world through the Internet.
For me, doing business is a lot like playing sports. Think about the MLB slugger Ichiro. For him, playing baseball is more than just a job. He loves the sport and what it means to him. We, too, are like professional business athletes - - I always tell Rakuten staff about this similarity. Business requires total dedication, practice and teamwork. We should enjoy our work and we should keep on winning. Everyone needs this kind of mindset to run a business. I always want to work with people who can share in this work ethic and philosophy.
At Rakuten, we place a higher value on a person's ability to "Get Things Done". Unlike other companies, Rakuten does not place a higher value on age or experience. What matters to us is one's ability to get things done, working through difficulties and striving to accomplish our goals. Even if we fail to clear our goals, we should never be content that we have done our best, but instead we must analyze what we must do to overcome our failure and work hard again. I believe these are the moments we can taste the ultimate satisfaction and bliss of doing business.
Our company is like a fighting ring: what matters is for each individual to take up the fight there. I want everyone at Rakuten to continue working hard in the ring called "Rakuten" as they overcome their weaknesses and work toward their goals.