Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
Many of us are experiencing disruption and anxiety as a result of the spread of COVID-19 and concerns about how this pandemic will evolve. As a global company, Rakuten has a heightened awareness of the potential impact of how COVID-19 is moving around the world and a strong sense of our duty to be a role model with our actions.
We have moved quickly to implement precautions to protect our customers, our partners, our employees and all of our other stakeholders. Every decision we make at this time is couched in two fundamentals:
1. We must take appropriate precautions based on reliable data. While we need to start with optimism and careful judgement, we also want to err on the side of caution. Rakuten offices around the world are following guidelines put in place by local or national government and health officials to limit the spread of the virus. Since the early days of this crisis, we have moved quickly in regions including Japan and Germany to implement safety procedures, for example with bans on travel to certain geographies and quarantine periods for employees who had visited certain regions.
2. We must work as a team to contribute to resolution of issues arising across society. As we evaluate risks and decide on precautions, we must ensure we implement these precautions as a team across Rakuten. Our cultural values, including teamwork, entrepreneurial spirit, agility and creativity, are going to be key to making sure we are contributing to resolution of issues arising across society as a result of this pandemic.
So how are we doing our part at Rakuten?
With the early leadership of our global coronavirus task force, which we launched in January and I am taking direct responsibility for, we are implementing actions across the globe to reduce risk connected to the spread of the virus, encouraging employees to work from home, banning all non-essential travel, canceling events and in-person trainings, encouraging use of videoconferencing and limiting in-person meetings to a maximum of 10 people. Our Americas and Europe leadership are also empowered to implement actions that are appropriate to local needs.
We have invested in technologies to allow work-from-home programs to be implemented seamlessly. Even as we continue to hold weekly all-hands Asakai meetings, employees are empowered to call in from remote locations. For the people and organizations who keep our offices running, we are making sure they are compensated for the services they ordinarily would have provided under normal circumstances.
Yesterday, we announced to around 700 new university graduates due to start work in Japan on April 1 that we would ask them to conduct their initial month of training from a remote location, with new online programs created specifically for them.
We have banned all nonessential international and domestic travel. We have also canceled events that we operate and are holding virtual events instead, such as the Rakuten Mobile Un-Limit launch event earlier this month.
We encourage all of our employees to wash their hands frequently, to open the windows periodically to air the office, and we have provided masks to those in the office who have had difficulty sourcing them. As large groups of employees are working from home, we’re encouraging managers to hold morning and afternoon huddles to connect as a team and minimize feelings of social isolation.
On our e-commerce platforms, we continue to closely monitor for price-gouging on high-demand products such as face masks, liquid sanitizers or sanitizing wipes. We are working closely with our merchants to make sure these vital products are available at normal pricing and can be quickly delivered to our members.
We are also empowering our global businesses to do their part to support impacted areas. I was incredibly proud to hear last week that Rakuten Kobo’s Italian team are working with the Mondadori Group to give away a free e-book to people affected by Italy’s quarantine, as part of a larger initiative introduced by the Italian government.
While free books may sound like a small thing, I believe that these small acts can accumulate to have a significant impact on the lives of everyone affected by the outbreak. I strongly believe that in times of crisis, we must walk together, and so I am heartened to see other companies, individuals and nonprofits joining together on incredible acts of kindness and optimism.
I can assure you that we will continue to work to support our people and the communities where we operate. We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to modify our policies as we learn more from official authorities like the World Health Organization, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
With the right precautions and by making decisions with sound information, strong judgement and appropriate speed, I am confident we will walk together to move on from this challenging time and towards a healthier future.