Rakuten was founded as an electronic commerce company by investment banker–turned entrepreneur Hiroshi Mikitani in 1997. The company launched the business-to-business-to-customer portal Rakuten Shopping Mall or Rakuten Ichiba in Japanese. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Rakuten has become a zaibatsu (i.e., a powerful business conglomerate) of the digital age, whose venture has diversified from e-commerce to some 70 services such as banking, financial technology, media, and telecommunications.

Mikitani named the company after the 16th-century economic liberalization called rakuichi rakuza (free market open guild), which was initiated by Japanese feudal lords to abolish the monopolies of powerful guilds and merchants. The group’s annual revenue totaled 944.5 billion Japanese yen for the 2017 fiscal year. As of December 31, 2017, the company employed a total of ...

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