Cashback News – April 18: Rakuten’s global strategies and investments are curious mix

Rakuten globalWe’re continuing our series profiling the biggest global cashback and e-commerce companies. Today, we look at Japan-headquartered Rakuten’s strategies, investments and recent news to gain insight into the company. Rakuten Ventures announced it is doubling the size of its Global Investment Fund to US$200 million. Rakuten opened a business office in Bengaluru, India to explore the market. The company has also actively recruited mid-level managers Flipkart and Amazon. Ironically, Saemin Ahn, Rakuten Ventures’ managing director, said at an April 16 Singapore TechinAsia conference it is not currently investing in India, China and Indonesia.

In Taiwan, Rakuten launched Rakuma, a mobile consumer-to-consumer app that allows consumers to buy and sell from each other. Rakuten and Korea’s largest e-commerce marketplace Gmarket, announced an MOU to support merchants in products selling cross-border. Last year, Rakuten made an interesting acquisition of, and this year it launched a “virtual fitting room” and clothes sizing service called Fit Advisor to help online customers buy proper-sized products. Fore! Japanese golfers will soon be able to get drone deliveries of balls, drinks and other products from the clubhouse in a test by Rakuten.

Rakuten Ventures injects extra $100m into global startup fund

Rakuten-Ventures-Saemin-AhnRakuten Ventures, the investment arm of the Japan-based ecommerce titan, today announced it’s doubling its Global Investment Fund to US$200 million.

The US$100m injection was revealed this afternoon by Saemin Ahn, the managing director of Rakuten Ventures. He was talking onstage at Tech in Asia Singapore 2016 about the VC firm and its three investments divisions. Rakuten Ventures has global, Japan, and fintech funds.

This comes 10 weeks after the launch of the Rakuten Ventures Japan Fund. Based out of Singapore and Tokyo, it has placed several bets on well-known startups such as file transfer app Send Anywhere and marketplace app Carousell.

Rakuten Ventures has also backed a number of much more technical startups that make services other tech companies can make use of, like image recognition firm Visenze and push notifications service OneSignal. Via

Shout out to Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon; Japanese giant Rakuten is coming to storm Indian e-commerce chapter e-commerce giant Rakuten, which opened its development centre in Bengaluru in 2014, has now opened a business office in the startup hub.

Apparently, the Japanese behemoth doesn’t want to lose out on India’s e-commerce growth story and wants to do an Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce player which has investments in India and now planning a direct entry.

After the government allowed 100 per cent FDI in India’s e-commerce, bigwigs across the world want to have a share of the pie. Reportedly, Rakuten, owner of Viber, has already poached mid-level managers from Flipkart and Amazon. Via

Rakuten Ventures on why it’s not investing in India, China, and Indonesia

Saemin Ahn - RakutenRakuten Ventures, the investment arm of the Japan-based ecommerce giant, just announced it injected US$100 million more into its global fund, but don’t expect any of it to go to hot markets India, China, or Indonesia.

Speaking yesterday at Tech in Asia Singapore 2016, Saemin Ahn, Rakuten Ventures’ managing director, explains why. “Let’s look at India and China first. We give them due respect, but [it’s hard to invest] without having people on the ground who really understand the culture and the kind of investment dynamics there. We’re not in Indonesia because the market changes very quickly, day after day.”

In the case of India, however, aside from Rakuten Ventures’ “ignorance,” Saemin thinks it’s just not practical to invest yet. He points out that while India has a population of 1.2 billion, there are only about 40 million to 50 million people who actually have “real” smartphones – and not those weird Android permutations – and who are at least in the middle class, earning about US$10,000 a year. Via

Rakuten eyes India’s e-commerce market: Report China’s Alibaba announced it would enter the Indian market, Rakuten, often touted to be Japan’s answer to Alibaba, has opened a business office in Bengaluru and is reportedly approaching Amazon and Flipkart execs, asking them to join its ranks.

The report by the Economic Times adds the Japanese e-tail giant, which also owns the popular chat app Viber, opened a development centre in the city in 2014. Declining to comment, a spokesperson told ET: “India is a vibrant growth market and a great source of talent and ideas for us at Rakuten. We are always interested in new global opportunities for growth but we don’t have any comments on developments in India at this time.”

The reports of Rakuten approaching execs familiar with setting up e-commerce platforms in the country has apparently been confirmed by sources close to the development. Rakuten eyes India’s e-commerce market: Report

Rakuten Releases Rakuma Consumer Mobile E-commerce App in Taiwan

RakumaRakuten released a new application today for Consumer-to-Consumer mobile e-commerce in Taiwan known as Rakuma. This is the first new market entry outside Japan for the app that was successfully launched in Japan in late 2014.

The Rakuma app enables sale of goods between individual consumers via smart devices and has grown in popularity at a rapid pace in Japan. It is an easy-to-use mobile application that allows for quick product listing and direct communication among users. The launch in Taiwan will target consumers interested in easy mobile access to e-commerce. The app is available for free download on Google Play and the iTunes Store.

Rakuma Business Manager, Takafumi Inoue, said “We are excited about Rakuma making the leap from Japan to Taiwan with this popular mobile app and providing Taiwanese users with the opportunity to ‘sell and buy’ their personal, home and fashion goods seamlessly on their smart devices.” Via

Korea and Japan’s Leading Ecommerce Retailers sign agreement to boost cross-border trading

Brands - G MarketOn February 23, Gmarket (, Korea’s largest e-commerce shopping mall, and Rakuten, Japan’s largest internet shopping mall retailer, entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at boosting cross-border trading by local merchants in both countries. Henry Chun, Head of Gmarket, and Masato Takahashi, Managing Executive Officer, Rakuten, attended an MOU signing ceremony in Tokyo to support cross-border trade of Gmarket and Rakuten sellers.

In Japan, Gmarket will launch an online flagship store on Rakuten Ichiba featuring mini-shops that will offer Korea’s diverse fashion and beauty products to Rakuten’s membership base of over 100 million users. At the time of launch, these will include over 200 items of women’s fashion and 100 items of Korean road-shop (local small- and medium-sized) cosmetic brands, and both Rakuten and Gmarket have high expectations of future growth.

Gmarket and Rakuten will provide services to participating merchants such as translation, listings, merchandizing advice, and customer support. When a consumer purchases a product on their local site, the order will be processed in a designated fulfillment center in the country where the merchant is located and products will be delivered directly to the consumer.

In Korea, Rakuten will launch an online flagship store on Gmarket, and offer products on its curated commerce service G9, offering Korean consumers even greater opportunities to purchase unique merchandise from Rakuten’s extensive lineup of Japanese merchants. From the broad variety of products offered by the more than 44,000 merchants on Rakuten in Japan, Korean consumers will enjoy high-quality products including beauty, toys, hobby items and sporting goods. Via

Rakuten Ichiba Launches Trial of Virtual Clothes Fitting Service

Fits me

Rakuten, Inc. today announced that it has launched a trial of a virtual fitting room service called “Virtual Fitting Room” and a clothing size advisory service titled “Fit Advisor” utilizing technologies of its subsidiary Holdings Limited on Rakuten Ichiba.

With the Virtual Fitting Room, users can check on the product page how clothes will look when worn before buying them. By entering information related to their physique, such as their height and weight, followed by the type of fit they like (loose, tight), users can see which type and size of clothing suits their physique best. The Fit Advisor service provides recommendations on the clothing size based on information on the user’s physique input by the user, such as height and weight.

In this trial run, customers can use the Virtual Fitting Room to try on about 60 different men’s dress shirts from Menswear Haruyama that are listed on Rakuten Ichiba. The Fit Advisor service will also being offered for roughly 8,000 products on Stylife, the official fashion brand e-commerce site on Rakuten Ichiba. Moving forward, Rakuten will continue to make efforts to provide high added-value services towards its goal of becoming a marketplace where customers can enjoy shopping even more. Via

Japan’s Rakuten buys into drone delivery’s Rakuten has joined fellow online retail giants Amazon and Alibaba with drone delivery and hopes to begin testing soon on the golf course.

Rakuten bought a 20 percent stake in Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory, a Japanese company that makes robotics for industrial use. ACSL offers its Mini Surveyor drones and other services for surveying, inspections, monitoring and other jobs.

Starting in May, golfers at a course in Chiba can order drinks, snacks, balls or other items via a smartphone app, and the drone will delivery it from the clubhouse. Based on how the drones perform on the golf course, Rakuten will then decide how and if the service can be expanded to home delivery like Amazon’s proposed Prime Air program, Japan’s NHK reported. Via

Eye on Rakuten

RakutenAs it continues to make strategic acquisitions around the world, Rakuten seems ready to explore the marketplace in India. Maybe acquiring the struggling Jabong would be a good first step? It’s had great success with Ebates and less favorable results in the UK as it transitioned to Certainly some of its e-commerce sites could benefit from a fresh redesign, especially in the UK.

We’ll keep you current on Rakuten, Alibaba, Amazon and other global players as news breaks. Remember, you can get weekday news in your morning inbox by signing up for free at the top of the page right.