～Interviewing Key Person of the World –by Recruit Group Local Office ～
Rakuten Managing Executive Officer and Director / Executive Director of Asia RHQ
Mr. Masatada Kobayashi
RGF HR Agent Singapore Pte. Ltd., Senior Director
"Empowering People and Society" being the vision since its foundation, Rakuten strives to become the World's No.1 Internet Services Company. Its global expansions started from 2008 into Taiwan and rapidly expanded to Thailand, USA, Europe, Indonesia and Malaysia. RGF has strong ties with assisting their hiring needs and we are delighted to hear Rakuten's global strategy, Singapore market and their global talent needs from Mr. Masatada Kobayashi, one of the founding members of Rakuten and currently the President of Rakuten Asia.
[1. Rakuten's Global Strategy]
●"Rakuten Ecosystem" to empower each country
Kobayashi (Hereinafter K:) Rakuten's global strategy is to build "Rakuten Ecosystem" that are used by many people in Japan, in each country and empower them. "Rakuten Ecosystem" started as e-commerce (electronic commerce, so called EC, buying and selling on the internet) and currently this ecosystem is serviced in much wider range such as booking hotels or financial services including trading securities, banking, and credit cards. In order for us to globally expand this model, we started in Taiwan from 2008 and built the ecosystem to empower each country. This is Rakuten's global mission.
●Rakuten's strength is in the partnership model. Being free from constraints, partnering with any attractive companies.
Jonathan (Hereinafter J:) Do you develop your own payment methods or do you partner with other companies?
K: We don't have any color. Meaning, that we can launch services ourselves or find partners. We're not a traditional Japanese company invested by family owned conglomerates and thus have no constraints. This is part of the reason why we could do wildly new things like starting a professional baseball team. Our model is partnership model with regardless of the company size and scale and to live together with partner companies we therefore do not have a color and will partner with any attractive companies. This goes the same for payment as well as the shipping services.
[2. Hot Market in Asia]
●Success in Taiwan relies on successful implementation of the Rakuten culture called "Rakuten Shugi (Rakuten basic principles)"
J: I'd like to move on to the second question on the hot markets in Asia. Can you tell us your secrets to success or the inside story to the success in Taiwan?
K: We launched our Taiwan operation in 2008. As this was our first challenge out of Japan, we selected 10 key members from different functions such as Sales or Editors to work for this start-up. Our launch was in a form of joint venture and our partner company had also provided very good talents. One of the reasons why we are continuing to perform well in Taiwan is that we were able to successfully implement the Rakuten culture which is called "Rakuten Shugi". Recently, we had a Chinese New Year party with 270 people attending. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many people in Taiwan understands our Rakuten Shugi. The biggest factor for our success in Taiwan is that the starting member rooted our Rakuten philosophy well. Business model of course is important but what is even bigger is the underlying soul.
●The Leader in the country to speak in local language and to tell the local story, by doing so, we can build the Rakuten Shugi in each country.
K: We recently had a Rakuten Shugi training session in our Taipei Office, gathering top management from all across Asia. In order to build a strong team in Asia, we thought that the management needs to have strong ties with each other, with deeply rooted understandings. Rakuten's Global HR in Japan and Regional Head Quarters (RHQ) cooperated and managed a 1.5 day session. To bring Rakuten Shugi to certain country, the messages that comes from the Head of the country always needs to be based on Rakuten Shugi. We discussed what Rakuten Shugi means from morning to late evening and raised the level of understanding. Upon this training, I have requested continuously that I wanted participants to talk in their own words and not using what Mikitani-san (President of Rakuten) said. Whatever you have experienced, there are things you can assimilate with the philosophy. By connecting the Rakuten Shugi essence with our management's own performances and to tell in their own words will be very important.
[3. About Singapore]
●Having global talents developed from Singapore
K: In Singapore, if we could develop regional leaders, we think they could become future global leaders. In the recently held top management training, I told the management team that "we would like to produce global leaders from Asia and they are the first ones". Many people in Singapore can speak English and/or Chinese, have educational backgrounds to compete with the global market, has well balanced cultures. There are quite a few potentials that people in Singapore can become the global leaders. We would like to base Singapore as a global talent producing hub.
J: That sounds very exciting. So Singapore will become the birth place of the next generation regional and global leaders.
[4. Global Talent]
●From each country to empower the society as a whole
J: Going on to my next question about global talent. Rakuten is well known for developing global talent such as your Englishnization project. What is the most important capability that Rakuten values as the global talent?
K: This will be my personal opinion but I think there are two things. Does this person have love to the country or not. For example, if I say I'd like to do something for my home county Gifu, this energy that the employee brings will become the energy of the organization. Service quality will be improved. I like these people who are serious and passionate about their town or people.
On the other hand, I don't want those who are too stuck with their patriotism. Those who live in other region or country have their own life that they have all the rights to live rich and fully. I think that having love and respect to the others are necessary. Upon launching USA and Taiwan operations, I said the same. On the first day of the training for the launch of Taiwan operations, I told everyone that the training will start but do not try to complete by copying what Japan does. Japan can be an example but those who will be using the services are local companies and the users. Being a patriot but not stuck with only your own country but to have a view point that we would all want the world to be happy is the mindset we want from the global talent.
●Management philosophy does not change by country but the approaches should.
J: On your management philosophy, is it different from USA to Singapore? Should management philosophy change by country? Or can it be consistent?
K: I think the management philosophy should not change. It should evolve from Japanese style to global style but the philosophy itself should not change.
However, the management approach is widely different from Japan. In Japan when you tell 1, majority will understand 10 but in USA, I have to say 12 and 13 to have people understand 10. For important matters, I learnt that clear direction is needed as well as to tell carefully. The approach needs to be changed. Japanese way of doing things are not global standards but convenient when it comes to manage Japanese people. When the country changes, the methodology also changes.
To understand and appreciate the background of the country and the nationalities, and to customize them will be what is the aptitude of the global talents.
●Those who have high loyalties and yet have seen your own country from outside is what we need
J: My last question. Rakuten has used RGF in Singapore to hire 18 people. What do you expect from RGF?
K: For the junior employees, the less cost to hire the better. We will be putting more costs for key hires such as Country Heads who can lead the country. Head means that this person has outstanding sense of loyalty to the country and regardless of your own personal benefits work to improve the country. This is the types of people we'd like to hire. Work experiences in global companies are also preferable. Those who have seen their own country from outside, such as studying overseas and staying in Western society and looking at Asia. Those experiences are attractive and have future we will be interested in.
J: So to know the local market, and have global mindset and with global experiences.
Let’s expand both our Asia businesses together.
Thank you very much.
Rakuten Managing Executive Officer and Director
Executive Director of Asia RHQ
Masatada (Seichu) Kobayashi
Born 1971, 1994 graduated Keio University, major Policy Management
1997 joined Rakuten as one of the founding members and launched Sales Head Office as a responsible head of Shopping Mall business. Serial launches of Osaka Branch, Marketing Department, and global business.
From April 2012, became the President of USA office since September 2014, on the current role of managing the Rakuten Asia HQ. In 2011, was chosen the Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum. Completed AMP, Harvard Business School in Autumn 2011. Chair of "Beyond Tomorrow" a leadership education programme for young people who were effected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and participate in scholarships of this programme. Also has a scholarship in Keio University and has high interest in educational sectors.
RGF HR Agent Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1979, B.A. Economics in Tufts University. Joined Dentsu USA 2002. Executive Search consultant in CDS and was the Director for Consumer Goods Practices. In 2012, joined RGF HR Agent Singapore which is the Recruit Group company and became the Senior Director from 2013. Currently manages Consumer Goods, IT, Digital Media and Healthcare and Lifesciences practices.