We have heard rumours of Rakuten lurking into Malaysia's market for about 2 years now, and they have finally announced that they will be in for good.
Malaysia is the ninth country out of Japan in Rakuten's global expansion, and interestingly this is Rakuten's first "greenfield approach" - without any joint venture or acquisition.
This also means that 3 out of the top 4 e-commerce companies in the world are now presented in Malaysia, except Amazon (#1). The other 2 being eBay (#2) and Groupon (#4), of course eBay doesn't have a local office here but launched the local site 8 years ago.
People who are not really familiar with the e-commerce industry often get confused by these companies. Amazon mainly provides B2C service (carries inventory), eBay is more like a C2C, Rakuten focus in B2B2C, while Groupon is a group buying / deal site.
What is B2B2C? The first "B" being the merchant, second "B" is Rakuten itself providing the platform, while the "C" representing the customer. In layman term, Rakuten is just like a virtual shopping mall (like Mid Valley, Pavillion etc.) with all the shops reside within the online marketplace.
Different from other existing marketplaces, expect to see big retailers, SMBs to mom and pop stores in Rakuten. You might also need to get rid of the perception that Rakuten is bringing the goods from Japan as most of the merchants will be local businesses.
"Empowering merchants" is always one of the Rakuten's core philosphies. It will be interesting to see how Rakuten will be helping the local businesses to sell online, via its renowned E-Commerce Consultancy. If you are interested to become a Rakuten merchant, find out here.
As for consumer, Rakuten online shopping mall will only be launched by last quarter of 2012. Watch this space for more updates by then.