Aims to become a full service Internet company
Game plan is to deliver exceptionally good quality
RAKUTEN Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Masaya Ueno (pic) said something interesting towards the end of my interview with him recently.. “We want to grow Rakuten Malaysia into a full-line Internet services company, just as in Japan, where we offer customers various online services including travel, e-reading, banking and financial services, securities and online marketing expertise.”
In Japan, Rakuten achieved this by way of acquisitions. Will it follow the same path here?
“Yes,” says Ueno. “We want to build the same e-commerce ecosystem in Malaysia but within the regulations of the country.”
“Financial services have been a key underpinning of many of the things we do in Japan but we are not sure if we can offer the same services here. We will explore all angles and will be keen on making acquisitions too.”
In the meantime, local players have time to beef up their operations to get a better valuation when Rakuten comes a-knocking, or they can try to knock Rakuten out of the park by ensuring they deliver exceptional value and quality to Malaysian merchants who are online, so that those merchants will feel there is no need to try the Rakuten value proposition -- which boils down to increased sales and better engagement with the merchant’s customers.
Yet even foreign e-commerce players struggle with delivering consistent quality and customer promise.
An e-commerce enabler recently posted on his blog that Lazada Malaysia, owned by German-based Rocket Internet, took over two months to deliver his iPod. When it did reach out to him, it at least had the courtesy to extend him a complimentary iPod besides buying him coffee!
Ueno, who keeps emphasizing that Rakuten is committed to Malaysia for the long term, sees nothing daunting about any challenges that the market here may pose. He even finds it comforting that Malaysia shares the same thunder storms and traffic jams as Japan. Malaysians may find this a stretch though.
“When we started in Japan 10 years ago, we faced the same main challenges as Malaysia – i.e. the feeling that consumers would not be keen on shopping online,” he says. “But Japan too has heavy rains and bad traffic conditions and we knew we could offer consumers there all the convenience that comes with e-commerce. We argued that our online presence would have an impact of improving the quality of customer service and it was proven so.”
Ueno is confident that will happen in Malaysia too where the customer will want a quality product and quality service from the merchant.
Speaking of merchants, Ueno is coy about revealing the number of merchants Rakuten has signed up in Malaysia so far, preferring instead to go on about how active it has been to partner with merchants from both mid-sized to large retailers.
He declares that it is an ongoing process to ensure it partners ‘quality merchants’ with a genuine interest in tapping the online market. “In return, we leverage on their brand power to strengthen our credibility in the market.”
Rakuten says it is targeting retailers spanning across the IT, electronic, games, music, books, fashion, apparels, accessories and luxury goods industries. In this aspect, it has been encouraged by the Government’s recent unveiling of Digital Malaysia, which is a solid commitment to drive Malaysia towards a digital economy.
“We believe that initiatives under Digital Malaysia will strengthen the nation’s e-commerce industry and encourage merchants to leverage opportunities online as a natural next step for their businesses,” says Ueno.
Rakuten enters Malaysian e-commerce market in a unique way