Generative AI, new milestones and future growth: Reflections on last year’s achievements and looking ahead to 2024

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group

On behalf of the Rakuten Group, please allow me to extend our heartfelt condolences and offer our deepest sympathies to all those who lost their lives and were affected by the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake on January 1. We join with the international community in praying for a swift recovery for the region. Rakuten Mobile is working to provide support for customers in the affected areas and we are actively engaging in humanitarian aid Group-wide.

A year of notable milestones

Last year generative AI made a substantial impact worldwide, bringing with it undeniable signs that our society is undergoing dramatic transformation. Spurred by the challenges posed by the pandemic, Japan’s digitalization has surged forward and AI’s further advancement is augmenting the ways we live and work – changing even our daily lives. In terms of societal transformation, I believe the AI revolution is going to be bigger than the internet revolution.

2023 marked significant changes and major milestones for Rakuten. We have advocated for the democratization of the mobile phone industry since entering the market, and last year we launched the Rakuten SAIKYO Plan, offering unlimited high-speed data nationwide. Rakuten Mobile also received approval for the allocation of 700 MHz “platinum band” spectrum.

Coupled with our efforts to enhance communication quality and customer satisfaction, these milestones paved the way for Rakuten Mobile to surpass six million mobile carrier service subscriptions (B2C + B2B, including BCP). Additionally, our global expansion through Rakuten Symphony made an important stride as Germany’s 1&1 became the first mobile carrier in Europe to commercially launch a cloud-native Open RAN mobile network, built in partnership with Rakuten.

In our fintech services, achievements included Rakuten Card surpassing 30 million cards issued, Rakuten Bank going public and surpassing 14 million customer accounts, and Rakuten Securities surpassing 10 million general securities accounts. The synergistic efforts of these mobile and fintech services with the Rakuten Ecosystem significantly boosted total domestic e-commerce transactions on Rakuten Ichiba, Rakuten Travel and other core services, and our internet service business continued its strong performance.

“I believe the AI revolution is going to be bigger than the internet revolution.”

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group

Notably, our Japanese professional soccer club Vissel Kobe, in its 29th year, achieved its first-ever J.League championship – a significant milestone for the Rakuten Group. Our annual global gross transaction volume across the Group is forecast to reach 40 trillion yen, our global membership is expected to reach 1.8 billion, and our annual revenue is projected to exceed two trillion yen. It has been a strong year in terms of both revenue and improvements.

AI and the future

As we step into 2024, AI’s role in these businesses will undoubtedly grow. We will continue working with our strategic AI partner OpenAI to deliver state-of-the-art AI experiences to consumers and businesses in both Japan and worldwide.

The Rakuten Group aims to further the growth of our internet services, fintech services and mobile services, expanding synergies while leveraging services and data within the Rakuten Ecosystem, augmented by AI. Our new “Triple 20” project seeks to boost productivity for marketing, operations and clients by 20%.

Rakuten Group Chairman & CEO Mickey Mikitani and Rakuten Group leaders visit Atago Shrine in Tokyo, an annual New Year tradition at Rakuten.
Rakuten Group Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani and Rakuten Group leaders visit Atago Shrine in Tokyo, an annual New Year tradition at Rakuten.

Today, as we continue to pray for world peace and a swift recovery for disaster-affected regions, we renew our commitment to unite as a team dedicated to creating a better society – and a brighter tomorrow – through our business endeavors.

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