A few things to be optimistic about: Rakuten in 2023

It’s no secret that Rakuten is a company of optimists – it’s in the name, after all. From high-tech mobile networks and drone deliveries to green innovation and AR race cars, here are just a few things that we’re particularly optimistic about for this current year.

Sustainability entrepreneurs assemble!

Last year, Rakuten’s European businesses came together to launch a new mission of environmental empowerment in the form of an internal competition: The Green’Ovation Challenge. Around 65 Rakuten employees from multiple countries and business units formed 16 teams to make their business pitches to a jury, exploring topics ranging from climate change and pollution to responsible supply chains and the circular economy.

The competition was more than just a thought exercise: The winning pitch is to be implemented as a real business project by Rakuten Europe.

The inaugural Green'Ovation trophy – made from sustainable wood, of course.
The inaugural Green’Ovation trophy – made from sustainable wood, of course.

“The event is great evidence that as a tech company, we are very serious about sustainability,” said Yuko Oki, Managing Director of Global Partnerships at Rakuten Europe. “Everyone’s contributions were amazing, we saw how the event fostered teamwork and brought people together and empowered them to develop disruptive ideas and services. We look forward to the next years.”

5G tech races ahead

Rakuten Mobile is continuing to push the limits of 5G mmWave – in spectacular fashion. Late last year, the team took to the Fuji Speedway circuit near Mt. Fuji, driving a virtual race car alongside real race cars – from the comfort of central Tokyo.

Speedway spectators could see the virtual car in real time through AR.
Speedway spectators could see the virtual car in real time through AR.

As 5G connectivity becomes more and more widespread, Rakuten Mobile’s tech demonstrations continue to prove that the tech can be about more than just speedy downloads – and we’re excited to see what lies ahead.

Inbound rebound: Global tourism returns to Japan

After over two years of closed borders, Japan began opening up to tourists in late 2022. By December 2022, inbound arrivals had topped one million – a promising start to the industry’s recovery (and Japan inbound tourism guru David Atkinson has a few ideas on how to make the most of this opportunity).

The alleyways of Tokyo's Shinjuku are ripe for exploration.
The alleyways of Tokyo’s Shinjuku are ripe for exploration.

Rakuten’s own travel reservation portal Rakuten Travel recently underwent a renewal, making Japan’s hot springs, mountains and cherry blossoms more accessible than ever before. Could 2023 be the year for a Japan trip?

More sustainable shoppers on Earth Mall

In just four years, sustainable shopping site Earth Mall with Rakuten has amassed over 140,000 sustainable products on its platform, and eco-conscious customers are paying attention. The site curates certified sustainable products from Rakuten Ichiba in a number of categories including eco-friendliness, fair trade and organic.

These handcrafted solar lanterns made from recycled glass and metal are just one of many popular products.
These handcrafted solar lanterns made from recycled glass and metal are just one of many popular products.

As traffic to the site continues to grow, it’s always exciting to see what new earth-friendly products the team can dig up!

Empowering communities through sports

From athlete partnerships to the operation of several professional sports teams, Rakuten is an active participant in the world of sports. One of these sporting endeavors is J.League soccer team Vissel Kobe.

Vissel Kobe and fans celebrate winning the Fuji Xerox Super Cup in 2020.
Vissel Kobe and fans celebrate winning the Fuji Xerox Super Cup in 2020.

Community engagement is a core pillar of Vissel’s philosophy – something that was recently highlighted after the team was named the top economic contributor of all J.League teams by the ‘Economic Impact Research Laboratory’. The report calculates all teams’ economic impact from transportation to home and away games, traffic to local businesses and more.

Vissel has always operated with a fan-first philosophy, and we’re looking forward to seeing the supporter community grow even further in 2023.

Rakuten India takes the stage

In 2022, Rakuten reached a major milestone in its operations in India, officially unveiling a new regional headquarters, Rakuten Crimson House Bengaluru. This state-of-the-art facility in the heart of India’s high-tech metropolis unites over 1,200 employees and partners under a single roof.

India is now the home of Rakuten’s largest development center outside of Japan, and hopes are high for R&D potential in the fields of fintech, AI, natural language processing and more.

Esports is finally a thing in Japan

The inaugural Rakuten eSports Cup kicked off in summer 2022, with some 60 streamers, YouTubers and esports professionals dueling it out in popular competitive hero shooter APEX LEGENDS™. The event was streamed live with commentary and featured a number of local stars.

The successful tournament raised hopes that esports might finally take root in Japan.
The successful tournament raised hopes that esports might finally take root in Japan.

The event was a promising success for local esports enthusiasts: Japan’s tricky regulatory environment has meant the industry has been relatively slow to take off compared to its neighbors in Asia. The tournament was followed up by a second event in December and more dates are planned for 2023 and beyond.

We’re going 100% renewable

RE100 is an environmental initiative to highlight influential companies that have pledged to go 100% renewable. Rakuten Group Inc. joined the initiative in 2019, setting a goal for net 100% renewable energy usage by 2025 for all of its operations – before promptly reaching that goal in 2021.

2022 saw the launch of a new green initiative to encourage sustainable consumption.
2022 saw the launch of a new green initiative to encourage sustainable consumption.

Now, an even more ambitious goal has been set: In 2023, Rakuten is aiming to transition operations for the entire group – including all subsidiaries – to 100% renewable energy. Now that’s something to be optimistic about!

Drones are finally taking off in Japan

Drone flights in Japan have long been a tricky business, often requiring extensive paperwork for even the simplest observation tours. In 2022, local regulations finally caught up with the rapidly advancing airborne technology, allowing basic drone flights to be carried out by licensed pilots with minimal fuss.

Rakuten's drone team has carried countless drone service trials around Japan.
Rakuten’s drone team has carried countless drone service trials around Japan.

In preparation for this dramatic industry shift, Rakuten recently launched the Rakuten Drone Gateway, which pairs professional drone operators with companies and customers needing specific drone services. The team expects business to kick off in spring 2023, as drone pilots achieve their certifications.

Things are looking up for Japan’s most high-tech new industry!

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