Hiroshi Mikitani, the CEO of Rakuten, says mandating that his employees speak English at work was tougher than expected; it slowed meetings and embarrassed senior managers. But Mikitani says he's sticking with it.
By Jay Alabaster
So-net Entertainment said its 'Nuro' fiber service for home use will also offer 1Gbps uploads, for about US$50 per month.
IDG News Service - A Sony-backed ISP in Japan has launched a 2Gbps Internet service, which it said is the world's fastest for home use.
So-net Entertainment began offering its "Nuro" fiber-based service on Monday to homes, apartments, and small businesses in Tokyo and six surrounding prefectures. Nuro will cost AY=4,980 ($51) per month on a two-year contract, plus a AY=52,500 installation fee that it is currently offering for free for those that apply online. The upload speed is 1Gbps.
The company said the service includes rental of an ONU (optical network unit) designed to handle the high speeds. ONU devices are commonly used in homes and business to convert fiber to broadband Internet. Individual users of the service are unlikely to see 2Gbps speeds on their devices, as it exceeds the capacity of most consumer network adaptors.
Other countries have far more confidence in Japan's capacity for innovation than Japan itself does, according to a survey by General Electric Co.
GE's finding was based on a questionnaire sent to 3,100 business executives in 25 countries. Each person was asked about the business climate of each country in regard to "innovation." The "Global Innovation Barometer" survey was carried out between October and December.
Japan's self-assessments were the lowest among the surveyed countries in seven of the 12 total categories.
"(These results) reflect the feeling of self-doubt caused by the prolonged sluggish economy," said Seiichiro Yonekura, a business history professor at Hitotsubashi University who analyzed the survey findings.
When asked whether Japan has a favorable climate for innovation, 81 percent of the respondents answered yes, while only 41 percent of Japanese executives answered so.
Following Rakuten’s new Asia headquarters in Singapore, the Japanese e-commerce giant has launched a US$10 million fund in Southeast Asia to strategically invest in companies that will help them in its e-commerce ventures. Mr. Toru Shimada of Rakuten (4755:JASDAQ), who leads the fund, told me:
"Within Asia, we already have e-commerce businesses in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan and plan to expand further in Southeast Asia. We not only invest in startups in Asia but also make business synergies [with startups for Rakuten’s] business."
Specifically, I was told that the type of startups that Rakuten Asia is looking for are those that are focused on e-commerce or e-commerce-related areas. It could be anything from social commerce sites with high traffic (like Pinterest) to mobile applications to e-commerce enablers such as marketing tools and solutions (like ReferralCandy), etc. Besides e-commerce, Rakuten is also keen to invest in online travel and digital content as it seeks to expand its portfolio in Asia.
The new Rakuten fund is lead by Mr. Toru Shimada, CEO and chairman of Rakuten Asia.
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (JSD:4755) now has a regional headquarters situated at One George Road in Singapore. The new Singapore office is set to take charge of Rakuten’s Asia-Pacific operations including marketing and regional expansions. Aside from its native Japan, Rakuten has e-commerce operations in Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. However, its China joint-venture with Baidu didn’t turn out to be successful.
Rakuten’s head of Asia marketing, Shin Hasegawa, told me that Singapore was chosen because of its close proximity to other Southeast Asian countries, and access to talented people. Interestingly, Rakuten also chose Singapore as a base because it believes it is the gateway to interact with the region’s startups.
Rakuten does invest in startups. Most prominently, it was the lead investor in Pinterest’s latest financing round. Like most of its Japanese counterparts such as GREE and CyberAgent who have set up corporate venture arms to invest in startups across Southeast Asia, Rakuten could also follow the same path. When asked about the possibility of having a ‘Rakuten Venture Fund’, Hasegawa told me that it could potentially be part of the big plan. But regardless, Rakuten is already investing in startups whether or not there’s a dedicated venture fund.
Amazon.com Inc.'s sales in Japan surged 18.6% on the year to 7.8 billion dollars in the year ended Dec. 31, making the U.S. giant the top Internet retailer here.
Amazon.com's country-based sales were made public for the first time through an annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Japanese sales tally, totaling roughly 730 billion yen based on the current exchange rate, would put Amazon.com at No. 10 or so among brick-and-mortar and online retailers here, lifting it past consumer electronics seller Edion Corp.'s (2730) projected 720 billion yen for the year ending March 31.
Rakuten Inc. (4755) is the largest Japanese online retailer, with its virtual mall, travel-booking business and other Internet-based services ringing up sales of 285.8 billion yen for the year ended Dec. 31.
But its revenue comes primarily from commissions from virtual mall tenants and other sources, while Amazon.com procures a wide range of products and sells them to consumers.
Participating stores in Rakuten's virtual mall have combined sales of roughly 1.3 trillion yen.
Amazon.com, which made its Japanese debut in 2000, does not release its total online sales including those from independent sellers in its Amazon Marketplace. If these sales are included, the U.S. firm may likely come close to Rakuten in total sales.
Japan's online retail market is expected to grow 15.9% to roughly 10.2 trillion yen in fiscal 2012, according to the Nomura Research Institute (4307).
About FirstPoint Japan
"Where Japanese Business Begins™"