The world around us is getting smaller. Our personal lives, our businesses, our communities are becoming ever more integrated. And the most important challenges we face are now more global and pressing than ever before. The age of convergence — that merging of technology, data and communications that is fundamentally changing the way we live — is becoming more complex every day, producing mountains of data and changing the relationship between consumers and businesses, between citizens and governments.
Our mission at Rakuten is and always has been to empower society through innovation and entrepreneurship. The converging needs of our stakeholders — our investors, our staff, our business partners, our customers and the societies we operate in — mean that we must seek to empower them all. We must keep them in mind with all of our operations and strategies. Society is truly empowered when we ensure everyone is valued equally.
A history of convergence
The Age of Convergence is, in fact, a trend that is millennia old, bringing us together since the dawn of humanity. It’s about building bridges between communities, removing barriers to learning. It saw its first real acceleration a few centuries ago. With the advent of new technologies, we were able to construct ocean-going ships, design navigation tools, develop new energy sources and take to the seas to explore new lands.
These were the first steps towards globalization.
More recently, perhaps in just the last 20-30 years, new acceleration has taken place. Once again it has been driven by new technology, specifically that which enables connectivity, reducing not only the physical space between people, business and communities, but also the virtual space.
This convergence is integral to our very existence now and, at scale, we cannot do without it; it will continue to bring us closer together.
This comes down to three core dynamics:
SPEED: Our businesses will have to adapt to the grand new expectations that come with 5G. We will be ready, thanks to our game-changing approach to becoming the world’s first end-to-end cloud-native mobile network later this year. At Rakuten, speed has been part of our DNA since the beginning. In fact. it is our fifth Principle of Success. This acceleration, when combined with powerful messaging, a focus on what is most important and the agility to respond to market needs, sets us up for success.
DATA-IZATION: We are taking the data we have from our ecosystem of businesses and leveraging it in the most relevant and efficient way to empower merchants and clients to create a better customer experience for their users. But volume of data is just the foundation — to win the game you must find the right convergence.
MORAL COMPASS: The democratization of information that has come with that convergence has given access and intelligence to consumers and citizens. And with that access comes awareness and choice: Companies that get their moral compass right are winning, and long-term valuations of those that do not are in jeopardy. At Rakuten, “empowerment” is at the core of our thinking and a driver of our efforts to pursue sustainability. A good example is the launch of Earth Mall in November last year; an e-commerce site that focuses on ethically sustainable products provided by merchants around Japan.
At Rakuten, we have these three concepts baked into our business strategy. This new era is when the value of Rakuten’s membership-based ecosystem truly delivers value.
With our data-driven approach to serving customers and unique proprietary technology that enables us to stay ahead of the game — from understanding user needs, to addressing them and adapting at high speed — we can empower consumers, businesses, future generations and society as a whole.
Ikigai: A search for meaning in life
I want to finish on a personal note that also points to how convergence of human needs is something for all of us in business to take note of.
Over a thousand years ago a concept was born in Japan, called ikigai. This idea focused on how an individual could find meaning in life. How an individual could make decisions that enabled a life of happiness and purpose.
To find your ikigai, you look for what you are passionate about, what you are good at, what you can get paid for and what the world needs. Increasingly people are thinking along these lines to help them navigate the complex society we live in. It is defining who people work for, who they spend time with and which companies they choose to transact with.
If businesses can understand what people today really are searching for and aim to bring joy not only to one stakeholder, but to all stakeholders in a deep and meaningful way, then they can position themselves for a bright future.
To survive in this accelerated Age of Convergence, we must respond quickly with powerful, truthful stories. We must connect and respect the right data and information, seeking trust and integrity. Perhaps above all we must seek purpose in our businesses, purpose that aligns with converging stakeholder needs, treating all equally.
And, if we can, we must find our own ikigai. If we can do that, then there is much to be optimistic about.
The text above is based on a speech given during Rakuten France’s merchant and partner-focused event Rakuten EXPO in Paris on June 6, 2019.