Rakuten eyes Thai credit cards

Rakuten Inc, the world's third-largest e-commerce firm, is looking to invest in the credit card business in Thailand with the planned introduction of an electronic card payment system next year.

The homepage of Tarad.com.

The investment by the Japanese company could come about through a joint venture with local commercial banks, an acquisition or co-branding.

Rakuten in 2009 spent 112 million baht for a 67% share in Tarad.com, Thailand's biggest e-commerce website.

"Thailand is a strategic country in Southeast Asia. We want to expand into the credit card business here," said Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's chairman and chief executive.

Credit cards are a promising channel for encouraging users to shop online. Rakuten in Japan has its own credit card, enabling users to earn points from their purchases.

Toru Shimada, the chief executive of Rakuten Asia, said half of Tarad.com's online transactions are made with a credit card. Also, the purchase value of credit card transactions is twice as high as others.

Mikitani: Thailand the key to Southeast Asia

Mr Mikitani said Asia-Pacific, especially Southeast Asia, is a fast-growing market for e-commerce thanks to increasing adoption of mobile internet and the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC).

"E-commerce in Asia-Pacific is expected to continue growing at a strong pace of 50% annually compared with 20% in the US and Europe," he said, adding that the market size of the region will equal or surpass the US within a decade.

Rakuten this year set up its headquarters in Singapore and expanded in Malaysia. Vietnam and the Philippines are its next targets.

The company plans to expand its global footprint to cover 27 countries in 2016 from 10 now.

Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, the founder of Tarad.com, said the AEC could spur online export opportunities, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.Asean governments are discussing "harmonisation" to open up food and pharmacy markets in all 10 countries.

Mr Pawoot said the e-commerce market in Thailand will grow by 30-50% this year from 20% growth in years past due to intensifying competition from global e-commerce players.

He said 30% of Tarad.com's buyers access the website from mobile phones, contributing 6% of total transactions.

About the author

Writer: Suchit Leesa-nguansuk
Position: Senior Reporter