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Rakuten: An Internet Giant

Rakuten Logo

Rakuten, the Japanese giant e-commerce platform and the world's third largest e-commerce company by revenue (US$ 4.94 billion in 2011), is expanding beyond its traditional Japanese borders faster than ever.

Founded in 1997 (older than Google) by Hiroshi Mikitani, its flagship e-commerce website Rakuten Ichiba utilizes a business to business to consumer (B2B2C) model, whereby merchants create online shops on the marketplace and sell directly to their customers. Today, shoppers can browse over 95 Millions of products from more than 40 000 virtual shops.


Heading to the Western World

In the past two years, the company has closed an impressive figure of 10 deals, making several acquisitions such as the French e-commerce site Priceminister for €200 million, US-based for US$ 250 million and UK e-commerce for £25 million, Brazilian e-commerce company Ikeda, and the e-commerce startup Tradoria in Germany.

But the company hasn’t stop yet, as on Thursday, 14th of June, the Japanese firm has just bought the Spanish online video platform called As the Spanish firm is operating in a very different field than the e-commerce, it may be surprising at first but as explained by Rakuten’s CEO Hiroshi Mikitani:

 “The management team and technology are both very strong, as is the number and strength of its relationships across the video and hardware industries. We saw synergies in the ambition of both businesses to expand internationally while video on demand extends our digital goods offering”

Beside these acquisitions, Rakuten has also made some strategic investments in startups, investing US$ 100 million in Pinterest last May and purchased a minority equity stake in Russian online platform in last September. Moreover, the company is also looking for new growth opportunities in new markets and has bought the Canadian company Kobo, which produced the Kobo e-reader, in November 2011.


Keeping a Foot in South East Asia

The company is not only looking in Europe and the USA to expand, but also taking in consideration the huge potential of some countries in Asia such has Malaysia and Indonesia where the company has respectively launched Rakuten Online Shopping and Best Denki Indonesia. Both of these new services will be run under their in-house B2B2C selling platform.


Going to globalization

In 2010, in order to transform the Japanese company to an international one, Rakuten has announced its wish to make English the company’s official language by 2012. As the day of today, we don’t know if this goal was reach or not as no announcement has been made recently to confirm the success of this operation.

According to an Interview made by CNN in February 2011, Hiroshi Mikitani explained that some boards have been displayed within the Rakuten’s offices asking employees to speak English as much as possible each Friday even if most of them are Japanese.

After being asked to explain this specification, Hiroshi Mikitani said that, as the company is going to the global stage, they will face more global players which of course they need to compete against them, in this situation talking English for all employees is a part of the strategy.


Acquisitions and Investments made by Rakuten since 2010


  • January 2010      bitWallet, Inc. is consolidated as a subsidiary of Rakuten, Inc.
  • July 2010            Acquisition of for US$ 250 million 
  •                            Acquisition of Priceminister for €200 million
  • June 2011           Rakuten acquired the Brazilian firm Ikeda (Rakuten Brazil)
  • July 2011            Acquisition of startup Tradoria in Germany (Rakuten Deutschland)
  • Sept. 2011          Rakuten purchased a stake in the website
  • October 2011      Purchase of UK e-commerce for £25 million.
  • Nov. 2011           Rakuten agreed to purchase the Canadian ebook Kobo.
  • May 2012            Investment of US$ 100 million in
  • June 2012           Acquisition of the Spanish video platform

As the pace of acquisitions has increased in the past months, we could expect some news coming from the Rakuten headquarters and this could lead to an even bigger internet player from the Rakuten we know today.

Yahoo Japan chooses Google as search partner


Yahoo! Japan announced its intention to team up with Google for search and ads.

Google to power Yahoo! Japan for search and ads

This news can seem surprising since Microsoft and Yahoo! created a Search Alliance. Yahoo! won’t therefore use Microsoft’s search engine Bing which however recently released a Japanese beta version.

Currently powered by Yahoo! US, Yahoo! Japan search engine will be powered by Google. Before going for Yahoo! Search Technology , Yahoo! Japan actually already used Google’s search engine from 2001 to 2004.
Under the agreement, Google will provide users with both algorithmic and paid search results. Yahoo! Japan didn’t disclose the date when the partnership will be effective. 

Yahoo! Japan is Japan’s biggest site

Yahoo! Japan is Japan’s leading search engine and the country’s biggest website.

According to market research company NetRatings  (Nielsen Online Japan), around 2.5 billion search queries were conducted on Yahoo! Japan latest June (51% of market share), far ahead of Google’s 1.6 billion and Bing’s 144 million search queries. The total amount of search queries from Japanese home and office computers reached 4.9 billion.
Yahoo! in the US actually owns only a share of around 35% in Yahoo! Japan while the majority owner is Tokyo-based telecommunications and media giant SoftBank with a share of 40%.

Search engine market share by country


This post contains market shares for search engines in the world and several countries including the US, China, Japan and South-Korea. Data provided by comScore is based on “expanded search” definition, which includes searches not only conducted on the core search engines.


Search engine market share - worldwide

Google Sites ranked as the top search site worldwide with 87.8 billion searches in December 2009, or almost 67 percent of the global search market. Yahoo! Sites ranked second globally with 9.4 billion searches, followed by Chinese search engine Baidu with 8.5 billion searches.

Microsoft Sites reached 4.1 billion searches, on the strength of its successful introduction of new search engine Bing. Russian search engine Yandex also achieved considerable gains, growing to 1.9 billion searches.

Top 10 Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in December 2009
Searches (MM) Market share (%)
Worldwide 131,354 100
Google Sites 87,809 66.8
Yahoo! Sites 9,444 7.2
Baidu 8,534 6.5
Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search) 4,094 3.1
eBay 2,102 1.6
NHN Corporation 2,069 1.6
Yandex 1,892 1.4
Facebook 1,572 1.2
Ask Network 1,507 1.1
Alibaba 1,102 0.9
Other 11,229 8.6


Search engine market share - US

In January 2009, Google Sites led with 11.7 billion searches, representing almost 59 percent of the US search market. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with nearly 3 billion searches, followed by Microsoft Sites (1.2 billion) and AOL (781 million).

Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in January 2009 Searches (MM) Market share (%)
United States 19,979 100
Google Sites 11,714 58.6
Yahoo! Sites 2,979 14.9
Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search) 1,188 5.9
AOL 781 3.9
Ask Network 645 3.2
Other 2,672 13.5


Search engine market share - Europe

In March 2008, Europeans conducted almost 25 billion searches. Google Sites holds the leading position with more than 19 billion searches conducted, representing 79 percent of the European search market. Google’s top position was followed by eBay, which accounted for 3.1 percent of European searches. Russian search portal Yandex ranked third with 2.2 percent search market share, slightly ahead of Yahoo! Sites at 2.0 percent and Microsoft Sites at 1.9 percent.

Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in March 2008 Searches (MM) Market share (%)
Europe 24,550 100
Google Sites 19,434 79.2
eBay 752 3.1
Yandex 528 2.2
Yahoo! Sites 486 2.0
Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search) 469 1.9
Nasza-Klasa 320 1.3
QXL ricardo 298 1.2
Other 2163 8.8


Search engine market share - China

The Chinese conducted almost 11 billion searches in July 2008. The leader of the market is the Chinese search engine Baidu, far ahead of Google (see our recent article showing that Google's loss is Baidu's gain in China). Other players such as Soso and Sogou try to gain market share but aren't very successful. 

Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in July 2008 Searches (MM) Market share (%)
China 10,994 100
Baidu 7,406 67.4
Google Sites 1,825 16.1
Alibaba 823 7.5
Tencent (Soso) 513 4.7
Sohu (Sogou) 305 2.8
Other 165 1.5


Search engine market share - Japan

Yahoo! Sites led the search ranking in Japan with 3.5 billion searches in January 2009, followed by Google Sites with 2.6 billion searches and Rakuten with 153 million searches.

Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in January 2009 Searches (MM) Market share (%)
Japan 6,795 100
Yahoo! Sites 3,489 51.3
Google Sites 2,596 38.2
Rakuten 153 2.3
Microsoft Sites (Bing - MSN - Windows Live Search) 113 1.7
NTT 103 1.5
Other 341 5.0


Search engine market share - South Korea

In April 2009, 3.4 billion searches were conducted in South Korea. NHN Corporation, which includes, led the search market with 2.1 billion searches conducted on its sites (62 percent search market share), followed by Daum with 680 million searches (20 percent) and Google Sites with 251 million searches (7 percent).

Top Expanded Search Entity by searches conducted in April 2009 Searches (MM) Market share (%)
South Korea 3,449 100
NHN (Naver) 2,135 61.9
Daum 680 19.7
Google Sites 251 7.2
Yahoo! Sites 140 4.1
SK 132 3.8
Other 111 3.1

If you have more up-to-date data about search engine market share, notably in Asian countries, feel free to share it with us.

Top online payment platforms in China, Japan and South Korea


With the development of e-business, many different payment systems have emerged for online merchants.

E-commerce payment systems include traditional credit/debit/charge cards but also new technologies such as digital wallets, e-cash, mobile payment and e-checks.

Alipay and Paypal lead worldwide PSP market

Another form of payment system is allowing a third-party company to complete the online transaction for the user. These companies are called Payment Service Providers (PSP). They provide an easy, safe and secure way for individuals and businesses to make and receive payments on the Internet.

The two major 3rd-party online payment platforms in the world are AliPay (part of Alibaba's group - more than 300 million registered users) and PayPal (part of eBay's group - more than 220 million registered users).

Let's have a look at the top online payment platforms used in the three following North Asian countries: China, Japan, and South Korea.

Online payment platforms in China

Chinese online third-party payment market is led by Alipay and Tenpay which both account for more than 70% of all electronic payments in China (credit/debit cards included) in 2010 Q1 according to iResearch.

Here is a list of the most popular online third-party payment platforms used in China.

- Alipay

Alipay is the leading third-party online payment platform in the world. As of March 2010, it had more than 300 million registered users. The platform is mainly used for C2C ( and B2B ( transaction payment as well as online game, digital content, and air tickets.

 Alipay screenshot


- Tenpay

TenPay is an online payment solution offering both a solution for companies looking to install an online payment system as well as a payment solution powering a variety of Tencent’s offerings such as PaiPai (online trading platform) and Qzone (SNS).

 Tenpay screenshot


- 99Bill

99Bill is a Shanghai-based independent third-party payment service provider mainly used for C2C, B2C, B2B, donation, discount bond, and mobile phone recharge transaction payment.

 99bill screenshot


- iPS

Headquartered in Shanghai, International Payment Solutions (iPS) is one of the pioneers in the third-party payment industry in China.

 iPS payment platform


- YeePay

YeePay is a Beijing-based e-payment service provider based in Beijing enabling users to make and receive payments over the Internet, mobile and telephone, especially for e-ticket, tourist, and digital content payment.

 Yeepay sreenshot


- PayEase

PayEase is mainly used for B2C, B2B, and public bill (mobile phone recharge, Internet access fee, exam entry fee, and donation).

 PayEase screenshot


- PayPal

Paypal is used as C2C payment service mostly on ebay and

It isn't very popular in China, maybe due to local restrictions: indeed, in China PayPal offers two kinds of accounts: accounts, for sending and receiving money to/from other accounts and accounts, for sending and receiving money to/from other accounts. 

All non-Chinese accounts are accounts, so these accounts may be used to send money internationally.

However, it's impossible to send money between accounts and accounts, so accounts are effectively unable to make international payments. For, the only supported currency is the Chinese Yuan (Renminbi).

PayPal screenshot


Regarding the usage of credit cards, Chinese mainly trust three actors, namely China UnionPay (national bankcard association in China), ChinaPay and Chinabank.


Online payment platforms in Japan

Japanese businesses and individuals usually use bank transfer and credit card payment methods when they shop online. However, online merchants in Japan also offer third-party payment platforms such as PayPal and Yahoo! Easy Payment.

Yahoo! Easy Payment is an online payment service mainly used on Yahoo! Japan Auction.

Yahoo! Easy Payment screenshot


Online payment platforms in South Korea

In addition to foreign third-party online payment platforms like Alipay and PayPal, KOPS (KOTRA Online Payment System) is rather popular among South Korean businesses, especially among B2B exporters.

The success of KOPS can be explained by two factors: its fees are very competitive compared to Alipay and PayPal, and KOPS membership grants significant discount for DHL and EMS shipping.

KOPS screenshot


Do you know other popular online payment platforms used in these countries?

Facebook wants to grow in China even if it's still blocked

facebook logo

World’s largest social network service Facebook hopes to grow in Asia, and notably in China, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the Cannes Lions advertising festival.

World's largest SNS

Founded in 2004, Facebook now has almost 500 million members.

The company is looking for other ways to maintain its growth driven now by non-English languages, in particular French, Spanish, Turkish and Indonesian. The objective is to reach 1 billion users.

Facebook to go local

Mark Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook would soon begin to make its first strategic local moves and do specific things in specific countries. He did not specify whether that would involve local customisation of Facebook in those countries, or some sort of corporate activity.

He also pointed out that mobile internet would be a driver of growth in social media.

Facebook wants to take the lead in the Asian SNS market

Among the countries for the next phase of expansion, Mark Zuckerber quoted China, Russia, South-Korea and Japan where Facebook isn't the leading social network.

Facebook faces fierce competition with Chinese social networks such as Tencent QQ, Renren Network (former Xiaonei) and Kaixin001 (see our article about SNSs in China). But as you know, Facebook is still blocked in China, so I don't really understand how Facebook intends to gain users unless it buys one of these companies.

Other local Asian SNS leaders include Cyworld in South Korea, Mixi in Japan and Vkontakte in Russia.

Rakuten acquires French eCommerce leader PriceMinister


Japan's online mall giant Rakuten acquires French number one online eCommerce platform PriceMinister for about 200 million euros.

Rakuten buys France's biggest eCommerce platform

Rakuten which is Japan’s biggest online shopping mall operator will acquire the entire stake in PriceMinister which is France's biggest online shopping platform in terms of monthly visitors.

The 200 million euro acquisition is expected to be finalized in July.

Launched in 2000, PriceMinister had 10 million registered members and revenue of 40 million euros in 2009. The Paris-based company also provides services in the UK and Spain.

Rakuten wants to be a global company

With this acquisition, Rakuten enters the European eCommerce market after it recently bought US online retailer for approximatively the same price ($250M).

In addition, the Chinese online shopping market is also part of Rakuten's plans: the Japanese company established a joint venture with the Chinese search engine Baidu to launch an eCommerce platform in China.

Moreover, Rakuten also signed a deal with Indonesian media conglomerate PT Global Mediacom to launch a local eCommerce network through a joint-venture in the second half of 2010.

With these several acquisitions and partnerships, the Japenese company clearly wants to expand internationally since Japan's eCommerce market is mature.

World eCommerce market on the move

At the same time, Rakuten's rivals, China's largest e-retailer Taobao and Yahoo! Japan, have joined forces to launch the world's largest cross-border e-Commerce platform.

World e-Commerce market is undergoing moves, especially in Asia where growth is driven by countries such as China (see our previous post about statistics of China's e-Commerce).

US actors like Ebay and Amazon have been rather discrete till now but they will have to react if they want to be still parts of the worldwide eCommerce race.

Baidu and Rakuten launch their e-Commerce platform 'Le Ku Tian'


The Chinese search engine company Baidu and the Japanese online retailer Rakuten opened their e-Commerce platform, named 'Le Ku Tian'. Vendors can now register on the website.

The B2B2C joint venture between the two companies who invested USD 50 million in the establishment, was announced last January, Rakuten owning 51% and Baidu owning 49% of the venture.

The online service platform was given the Chinese name 'Le Ku Tian'. The reasons for adopting it were because its pronunciation is similar to Rakuten, and it is also a Chinese name representing happiness, Koichi Nakamura CEO of explained.

The Baidu-Rakuten joint venture wants to serve small and medium sized enterprises to take advantage of the Chinese e-Commerce market. To attract more partners, several business promotion campaigns will take place soon in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Chengdu, and Qingdao.

Le Ku Tian online service is expected to become one of China's biggest e-Commerce platforms in the long run. Chinese e-Commerce market is undergoing tremendous growth (see our previous post about statistics of China's e-Commerce) and some other actors have gathered: Taobao and Yahoo! Japan have recently joined forces to create the world's largest cross-border e-Commerce platform.

Taobao and Yahoo Japan's eCommerce platform beating eBay ?

Taobao logo

China's largest e-retailer Taobao and Yahoo! Japan have joined forces to launch a cross-border eCommerce hub on June 1st.

Taobao and Yahoo Japan launch the largest eCommerce platform

Announced a few weeks ago, the partnership creates the world's biggest online marketplace, beating US rival eBay in terms of users and products on offer. Indeed, the service is expected to attract 250 million customers and offer more than 450 million products.

The joint service allows Internet users in China and Japan to buy and sell using systems translated into their native languages. Yahoo! JAPAN China Mall now offers 50 millions products from Chinese businesses to its Japenese consumers while on the other way around Chinese Internet users can buy 8 millions Japense items on TaoJapan.

Taobao is a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. Japan's mobile phone carrier SoftBank owns shares in both Taobao and Yahoo! Japan.

eBay's leadership in danger

After this announcement that threatens eBay's leadership in the e-Commerce market, the US company clearly had to react ; and it did by signing an international tri-lateral agreement with China Post and the United States Postal Service to provide easier shipping procedures for Chinese vendors who sell to American customers.

Besides, eBay launched an online tracking system with China Post Express & Logistics Corp, a unit of China Post. The partnership creates a new shipping platform for international tracking and delivery of lightweight goods ordered by consumers in the US from eBay sellers in China.

Other threat for eBay: Baidu, China's top search engine in terms of market share, which announced in January that it'd set up a joint venture with Japanese retail website Rakuten to launch a shopping mall targeting domestic web users in the second half of 2010. And by the way, Rakuten also recently acquired a domain name that can be well appropriated: (for $250 million)...