20 highlights from Rakuten’s 20th anniversary year

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Rakuten’s 20th year was one of the company’s busiest. Groundbreaking partnerships with two of the world’s highest profile sports teams were highlights, but there were many others – and they spanned diverse fields, from e-commerce and fintech to the sharing economy, marketing, sports, entertainment, education and more.

Below are 20 highlights from an auspicious year:

Electronic money offerings enabled at shrine

In Japan, it is a time-honored tradition for people to make offerings at shrines on New Year’s Day. So, it was a nice surprise to see – and hear – Rakuten technology right in the middle of it. Great start to the year!

Ragri links farmers with consumers

It’s not every day that a tech company gets to talk about farming, so everyone was eager to exercise their green thumbs when Rakuten launched Ragri (“Rakuten + agriculture”), an internet-based service that directly connects shoppers with farmers.

A new office opens in London

Bringing together teams from Rakuten Marketing, Fits Me, Rakuten TV, Viber, AIP and more, Rakuten Group’s new London office serves as a hub for UK operations.

Mother’s Day flowers delivered by drone

Rakuten Drone was back in the news in spring, this time delivering flowers for Mother’s Day.

Viki’s Learn Mode helps TV-watchers learn new languages

Rakuten’s global video service Viki introduced a new function to facilitate language learning while enjoying your favorite shows. In a word: brilliant!

Rakuten Eagles pitcher rewrites the record books

Another business, another world-beating record. Rakuten Eagles’ ace hurler Takahiro Norimoto cemented his place in history, striking out 10 or more batters in eight consecutive games.

Rakuten and Lifull announce room-sharing platform for Japan

Rakuten made another big move into the sharing economy when it announced a room-sharing platform for Japan in partnership with Lifull.

FC Barcelona partnership launches in Tokyo

With thousands of employees and more than 250 journalists to greet them, the superstars of FC Barcelona visited Rakuten Crimson House in Tokyo to discuss their new global partnership with Rakuten.

Lukas Podolski makes J.League debut with Vissel Kobe

Not to be outdone by the Barca stars, new Vissel Kobe striker Lukas Podolski netted two spectacular goals in his debut match in Japan’s topflight J1 league.

Rakuten unifies its global brands

The culmination of years of planning and hard work, Rakuten launched a groundbreaking project to unify its brands across the globe.

Free online fitting service launched by Rakuten Fits Me

Clothes sizing has always been a tricky area for online fashion retailers – until this year. New service Fit Origin lets shoppers specify their height, weight, age, bust and body shape to have the recommendation engine determine the best possible fit in the retailer’s garments.

Rakuten Super Points program reaches mega-milestone

Fifteen years since it was established, Rakuten’s highly successful points program – the “glue” that connects the Rakuten Ecosystem – reached an extraordinary milestone, giving out its one trillionth point. At one yen per point, the cumulative total is equivalent to roughly $9.1 billion.

New language learning service, Rakuten Super English, announced

Rakuten has built up a wealth of knowledge and know-how about the study of English since announcing in 2010 its plan to change its corporate language to English. That knowledge has now been channeled into our own language-study service, Rakuten Super English.

Rakuten partners with reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors

Further aligning the Rakuten brand with sporting excellence, Rakuten announced a new jersey sponsorship deal with reigning NBA Champions the Golden State Warriors.

Rakuten acquires rights to distribute NBA games in Japan

Fresh off the Golden State Warriors sponsorship announcement, Rakuten gave basketball fans one more reason to be excited when we announced we had become a global marketing partner of the NBA and acquired the rights to distribute NBA games in Japan.

Expansion at Rakuten India

In October, Yasufumi Hirai, EVP, CIO & CISO, announced our intention to double our headcount at Rakuten India Enterprise Private Limited, the team responsible for developing and operating cutting-edge technologies and innovations for many of our global services.

Support for revolutionary new cancer treatment

As exciting as sports can be, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani and Rakuten were proud to announce their involvement with Dr. Hisataka Kobayashi, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) senior investigator who developed a revolutionary new cancer treatment called near-infrared photoimmunotherapy.

AirAsia Japan takes flight

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes was on hand for a one-of-a-kind reception to celebrate the launch of the new-look AirAsia Japan, in which Rakuten is an investor.

Spotlight on Rakuten’s Englishnization initiative

Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neely published the results of her research on Rakuten’s Englishnization initiative in a well-received book and TED talk.

Rakuten announces intent to enter into mobile network operator business

Rakuten made headlines with an announcement that it intends to enter into the mobile network operator (MNO) business. If approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the application will see the company on track to become Japan’s fourth mobile carrier, with service aimed for launch in 2019.

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