On June 24, nearly 500 Rakuten India employees, friends and family members laced up their running shoes and gathered at Cubbon Park – located just across the street from Rakuten India’s Bengaluru-based HQ – to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community at the company’s first-ever “Run with Pride” celebration. The event included both a 5km and 10km run for participants of all fitness levels and age groups, from toddlers to parents of Rakutenians who joined to show their support.
“The event ‘Run with Pride’ is in meaningful alignment with Rakuten’s brand values and was organized to celebrate and advocate for diversity, inclusion and equality, with a specific focus on the LGBTQ+ community.”Nalini George, Chief People Officer, Rakuten India
On the day of the run, participants huddled in front of the office at daybreak for warmup sessions. A short walk later, everyone gathered at Cubbon Park, a landmark park located in the heart of Bengaluru. Cheered on by spectators waving Pride flags and volunteers at every corner ready with refreshments, the runners, donning specially created Rakuten Pride tees, proudly represented the company, showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Rakutenians “Run with Pride” at Cubbon Park
The event included a healthy mix of experienced long-distance runners, casual joggers and enthusiastic beginners, as well as partners, friends and children – including parents carrying toddlers on their shoulders and other young runners. For those in attendance, the event served as a powerful starting point for fostering a fit and active lifestyle as well as an opportunity to show allyship for LGBTQ+ communities.
“Only through constant awareness and dialogue can we bring about change.”Anirban Nandi, Head of AI Products & Analytics and Vice President, Rakuten India
Chief People Officer of Rakuten India Nalini George noted, “At Rakuten India, we believe in breaking down barriers, embracing differences as strengths and creating an inclusive workplace where people from all walks of life can thrive. The event ‘Run with Pride’ is in meaningful alignment with Rakuten’s brand values and was organized to celebrate and advocate for diversity, inclusion and equality, with a specific focus on the LGBTQ+ community. We understand that diversity helps us fuel innovation, enhances our strength as an organization and helps empower society as a whole.”
We also caught up with Rakuten India’s fast-moving Head of AI Products & Analytics and Vice President Anirban Nandi, who is the chairperson of Rakuten India’s DE&I Team. Nandi heaped praise on the organizing team as well as event participants, reiterating that “only through constant awareness and dialogue can we bring about change.”
Post event, medals were presented to participants and many took the opportunity to take pictures with fellow allies at a special photo booth. The day was capped off with a hearty breakfast at the Rakuten India office cafeteria and prize distribution ceremony for the top three runners in both the 5km and 10km events. For the young children that participated in the event, there was also a small entertainment booth where they could get their hands painted with decorative designs.
Continued learning through dialogue
Rakuten has long fostered a culture of empowering communities and individuals, with the firm belief that a multitude of perspectives is essential for an organization to grow and prosper. With the Rakuten Group’s Code of Ethics including diversity and inclusion as a key tenet, offices across the globe have shown allyship with the LGBTQ+ communities, constantly striving to build a brand its members and consumers can be proud of.
The “Run with Pride” event is one of many recent diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives from the Rakuten India team. Previously, DE&I experts have been brought in to share experiences and help increase awareness of the importance of allyship and educate employees and leadership on strategies to improve inclusive practices. A few days before the “Run with Pride” event, a special talk was organized, bringing in a leading diversity and inclusion speaker to the Rakuten India office to present about the importance of a developing a more nuanced and holistic understanding of gender and privilege.
Continuous efforts from HR and DE&I leaders to create a safer, more inclusive environment recently resulted in Rakuten India being named one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2023 in the country. The road to greater equity may be long, but Rakuten India are embracing the journey, one stride at a time.