CEO: Hiroshi Mikitani
Based in: Tokyo, London
Founded: February 7 1997
Best known for: eCommerce
Traded on: Tokyo Stock Exchange
Rakuten is Japan’s biggest eCommerce site – and in terms of sales, a world leader after the likes of 0'>Amazon, 0'>Alibaba and 0'>eBay. The Rakuten company name means “optimism” in Japanese, and it initially started life in 1997 as a virtual shopping mall boasting 13 merchants. Eight years later, the internet giant embarked on an aggressive global expansion by purchasing established brands worldwide – including Buy.com in the US, and Play.com in the UK.
The company now boasts more than 70 businesses that extend beyond eCommerce. Viber was one notable acquisition in Rakuten company history, and the popular voice over IP (VoIP) joined the tech giant’s stable in 2014 – rebranding to Rakuten Viber three years later. Overall, Rakuten says it now boasts 1.3 billion members across 30 countries.
Dubbed the “Amazon of Japan” by some, and “the biggest eCommerce platform you’ve never heard of” by others, Rakuten held its IPO in April 2000. At this point, the company was already wildly successful in Japan and was home to more than 2,300 stores.
8 Rakuten brands
The company’s flagship internet shopping mall in Japan
Online travel reservations service
An ID-based payment service for consumers
Online food ordering and delivery service
A membership-only cashback website in the US
A video on-demand service across Japan and Europe
Global provider of eReaders, eBooks and audiobooks
An encrypted, free video calling and instant messaging service