Due to concerns for employee safety arising from the spread of COVID-19, Rakuten postponed the annual spring entrance ceremony planned for the approximately 700 new graduate employees that joined the company on April 1. Instead, Rakuten held a video conference call for this year’s new grads joined in person by Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani. In addition to the virtual welcome, Rakuten is one of a growing number of companies in Japan that have rapidly shifted traditional training programs for new employees to an online environment. For more on what Rakuten is doing for this year’s new grads, please see here.
The following text is a transcription of Mickey’s welcome remarks to Rakuten’s new employees.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Rakuten Group.
It is very unfortunate we cannot have a welcome ceremony in person due to the coronavirus issue. But despite the difficult situation, I wanted to share my thoughts with you all about the situation and how you should take this positively, and so decided to talk to you by video conference.
A few years before I started Rakuten in 1997, a severe earthquake struck my hometown of Kobe in 1995. The day after, I went back to Kobe and looked for the bodies of my relatives. I lost a few members of my family and some very close friends because of the disaster and it became a turning point for my life. I decided to build a service that would bring value and contribute to society, and that is how I started Rakuten.
In 1997, it was only me and five employees, but now Rakuten has more than 20,000 employees globally, offering more than 70 services which make up the Rakuten Ecosystem. Our brand logo awareness in the U.S. is over 70%, and our businesses in Europe, especially for video streaming, are growing very rapidly. In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Tohoku area. We faced very severe economic conditions, but we survived and kept growing.
Under the current circumstances, while our travel businesses for example are facing some difficulties, our finance and e-commerce businesses are in good shape. This is one of the strengths of the Rakuten Ecosystem. There is a chance that the global economy could be severely affected by the spread of the coronavirus. It is at times like these that we, the Rakuten Group, must make use of all our technology and assets and give our all to support society in overcoming troubles.
I was in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago and saw the uptrend of infected patients in New York City and all over the U.S. It has spread unbelievably fast. This may happen in Japan, too. First of all, I would like to ask you all to maintain social distancing, and to encourage your friends to do the same. This will not last forever — an end will come sooner or later. But now is the time for all Rakuten Group employees and stakeholders to work together to overcome these difficult circumstances. From today, you are all members of the Rakuten Group, and I would like to ask you to act as role models for society.
As for new graduate training, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we will hold all training, including AI and programming training, through online video conferencing and other tools. Thanks to the hard work of GHR (Global Human Resources) and the IT team, you now have your own computer at your home so you can go through training even under these circumstances.
Lastly, once this is over, I am sure that you will think of your experiences now as a turning point in your life. You will become stronger. Society will become stronger after getting through this.
From today, we are one team, so please don’t forget that you are a professional, and please be sure to act as a role model for society. An end will come to this. I am looking forward to being able to meet you all in person in the near future.