My business principles must be embraced by my employees each day: constant improvement, customer satisfaction, and Speed, Speed, Speed!”
Early life and education
Mikitani was born in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, Japan. Mikitani attended Hitotsubashi University, graduating in 1988. While working for the Industrial Bank of Japan, Mikitani was transferred to the US and from 1993 studied at Harvard Business School, earning an MBA.
His father is an economist, Ryoichi Mikitani (Kobe University Professor Emeritus, Yale University Professor). His mother, Setsuko spent her elementary school age in New York. After her graduation from Kobe University, she worked for a major trading company. His sister, Ikuko is a physician (MD in Osaka University). His brother, Kenichi is a University of Tokyo professor in Biology.
On February 7, 1997 Mikitani founded Rakuten with a few young co-founders and just 250,000 of their own money. He was president from its founding, and in 2001 he also became chairman. In addition, he is also head of the E-Commerce and Banking Business Units and Head of the Development Unit. Among his other titles are also Chairman of Rakuten Travel, Inc., Chairman of Crimson Football Club, Inc., Director (President of Board of Directors) of PRICEMINISTER S.A.S., Director (Chairman) of Kobo Inc.
Focus on English in Business
From March 2010, Mikitani has implemented a plan that he calls “Englishization”, gradually making English the language of Rakuten, despite the fact the company is based in Japan with mainly Japanese staff. While the plan was dismissed as “stupid” by Honda president Takanobu Ito in 2010, Mikitani believes that: “English is not an advantage anymore — it is a requirement.” In 2011, Mikitani’s Englishization initiative was featured in aHarvard Business Review case study.
Mikitani had joined Keidanren, the powerful Japanese business federation, in 2004. In June 2011, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he quit the federation, announcing it via Twitter before sending in his formal letter of resignation, saying it was no longer the same organization he had joined, and he disagreed with its support for continued reliance on the nuclear industry for electricity. He subsequently pondered setting up a rival body.
On June 1, 2012 the Japanese Association of New Economy (JANE) was launched in Tokyo. It was a renaming of the “Japan e-business association”, which had been established in February 2010 to open it to non-online businesses. Mikitani currently serves as the Representative Director of JANE.
In 2012, Mikitani was awarded the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award, one of the school’s highest honors. He was also named to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s Industrial Competitiveness Council.
Mikitani is also a recipient of the Legion of Honour, an award bestowed by the French government.