Japanese company Rakuten has announced they are developing their own cryptocurrency and blockchain platform. The company will convert its current $9 billion dollar loyalty program into the new currency – Rakuten Coin.
The step is part of Rakuten’s ambition to become the leading global membership program, according to Rakuten Inc Founder, Chairman, and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.
“We started from Japan, very small, and we have a very big dream to become the biggest membership program using our [current] membership program together with blockchain technology. And also adding the [Rakuten] community function on to it,” Mikitani said at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.
The “borderless” blockchain-based cryptocurrency will be built on the company’s existing loyalty program – Rakuten Point – which currently issues between $2 to $2.5 billion worth of points, according to Mikitani.
The new cryptocurrency will be accepted across a range of Rakuten products and services including its ecommerce platform and marketing services. Mikitani also hinted Rakuten Coin may be accepted at FC Barcelona matches in the future.
Mikitani dismissed the notion that his company may be taking advantage of the cryptocurrency “fad” and said Rakuten “have been preparing to do this for a long long time”.
‘We are not Amazon’
Rakuten is an internet giant with a global gross transaction value of $120 billion. Primarily known for their ecommerce platform, Rakuten also offers marketing, media, social and logistics services, among others. Rakuten has also bid on the Japanese mobile spectrum in an attempt to become the country’s fourth national mobile operator.
But despite their large online presence and continued expansion, Mitikani says, Rakuten is not comparable to Amazon and is more concerned with growing a community than creating convenience.
“We are very very different from Amazon,” Mikitani said.
“We do not want to disconnect the retailer, brands from the consumer. We want to function as a catalyst between the retailer, brand, and consumer. That has been our philosophy – how to empower society, not just how to provide convenience to the consumer. So that is our biggest difference.”