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“Englishnization’/ “disgalapagosisation’: globalisation the Rakuten way


Rakuten, the Japanese B2B2C internet marketplace, aims to realise ambitions to be “the number one internet services company in the world" with an interesting globalisation strategy.  As well as a series of bold ‘internet shopping’ acquisitions, the company has instigated compulsory ‘Englishnization’ aHiroshi Mikitani,  founder,  chairman and CEO of Rakutennd a DIY clean desk policy to prepare for taking on Amazon.


Rakuten chairman, CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani requires all employees to be fluent in English and gave them just three months to get up to scratch!  All meetings and internal communications are now to be conducted entirely in English to ensure that the internet giant can operate as a truly global group.

The plan is known as ‘Englishnization’ or ‘disgalapagosisation’ [dis-Galapogos-isation] which reflects Mikitani’s view that Japan needs to be less isolationist and communicate better with the rest of the world to compete globally.  Rakuten laid on language lessons for staff, but those unable to get to a suitable level of proficiency risked losing their jobs.

Here’s a link to an interview with the BBC about ‘Englishnization’.

Internet Shopping and a Clean Desk

Rakuten is still relatively unknown outside of Japan, deliberately keeping a low profile until ready to take on competitors in the global market in 2012.  The company, founded 15 years ago with just 13 clients, now has annual revenues of $4 billion.

For those interested in learning more there is an excellent interview with Mikitani on Wired which looks at his background and plan for world domination.  Some key elements below:

Another initiative from Mikitani is to do without office cleaners; all employees are responsible for cleaning their own work spaces on Monday mornings to "to bring us back to basics".

In addition to insisting that all staff become fluent in English and clean their own desks, Mikitani instigated a series of acquisitions of internet retailers which has catapulted Rakuten into 27 countries:

  • Rakuten LogoAmerica’s – $250 million
  • France’s PriceMinister – €200 million
  • UK’s – £25 million
  • Canada’s Kobo – $315 million
  • Germany’s Tradoria
  • Brazil’s Ikeda

… as well as a series of other investments:

  • $100 million investment in Pinterest
  • $10 million funding round in AhaLife
  • A minority investment in Russia’s leading etailer, OZON

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