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    Sri Lanka Mulls Japanese E-Commerce giant for first trials

    May 08, 2014

    As Lanka’s exports to Japan topped $ 223 Mn mark, Sri Lanka is mulling a strategic, fast-track entry to one of the most coveted online markets in the world-Japan. “Japan is the second biggest retail market in the world.

    Japanese are also heavy internet users with a large e-commerce base. Using a top Japanese online giant like Rakuten could give Lankan exporters a wide-coverage and a low cost entry to this promising market” said Sujatha Weerakoone (DG-EDB) on 02 May at EDB premises.


    DG Weerakoone was addressing the EDB organized event “Japan’s Rakuten Platform for Sri Lankan Products” held for Lankan exporters on 02 May at EDB.


    The session consisted of a special in-depth presentation by Japan’s Kanagawa based Takashi Yoshino (Principal, Y and F Associates LLC) who, in a his presentation, shoed in-depth of the pros and cons, and how to create an online strategy for Lankan exporters to Japan. Eager representatives from more than 40 Lankan export firms were present at the session.


    Sri Lanka’s exports to Japan has shown a steady rise. In 2012, total exports to Japan recorded $ 215.74 Mn and in 2013, it rose to $ 223.82 Mn. Apparel, tea and seafood (prawns and fish) became the lead products in 2013. Not only in Japan, but across the world, Rakuten (rakuten.co.jp) is considered as one of the largest e-commerce retailers. Within Japan, Rakuten is the largest e-commerce retailer. Rakuten is internationally present in 19 countries.  As for Japan, around 30 percent of $ 13 Bn annual Japanese e-commerce traffic goes via Rakuten. With a single login to Rakuten, 78 to 80 million regular Japanese web users access its many services-which include retail business, travel, telecoms, banking and e-money services. The B2B2C Rakuten Platform recently reported revenues at $4.6 Bn with operating profits of about US$244 million.

     

     “This is a challenge and a tryout for Sri Lankan exporters. I thank the EDB for inviting me to show you this novel concept. Japan e-commerce market is unlike many international online sales portals we know such as Amazon” said Principal Yoshino, addressing the session. ”Japan’s retail consumer market is world’s second largest. It is not conducted in English though. Almost in Japanese language. More than 75% of Japanese buy products online, and most of them heavily use Japan’s top online e-commerce portal Rakuten used by 29%-30% Japanese. Other top e-commerce portals are Yahoo Japan (7.5%), and Amazon.com (12.4%). Rakuten had 6 million credit card customers and more than 75 million users in Japan. This February Rakuten announced they have acquired Viber for $900 million and are expecting to increase their user base to 2 Billion through mobile internet shopping. Sri Lankan product details have to be in Japanese language when placed with Rakuten. All catalogs are translated to Japanese language for Japanese customers. Products from 27 countries are displayed at present and Japanese customers have access to 95 million products around the world as a result. It is time Sri Lanka too joins this” said Principal Yoshino. “Before displaying products, prior analysis and research is done by Rakuten so that they cater the best products and services to their customers. Remember, Rakuten is Japan's largest online shopping mall, offering customers more than 95 million products from about 40,000 shops” added Principal Yoshino.


    Many exporters present at the session, expressed their interest towards the initiative. Ushan Edirisinghe, (Senior Marketing Manager - Siddhalepa Ayurveda),

     

    stressed: “This is very interesting. We are willing to take part. There is that initial portal opening fee charged by Rakuten, which is J-Yen 1.6 Mn (around US $ 15700 only) charged for portal opening for a foreign country. If the government is willing to pay this startup fee, then we the Lankan exporters to Japan have an opportunity to join this platform and take up the regular installment payments thereafter to Rakuten by ourselves on a sharing basis -among the participating exporters.”


    Edirisinghe’s Siddhalepa Group, which won the Superbrand status in 2006, exports several of its well-known products to Japan.

     

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