Article: How India’s talent pool is fuelling Rakuten Group's growth, innovation in APAC region

Talent Management

How India’s talent pool is fuelling Rakuten Group's growth, innovation in APAC region

With the Japanese electronic commerce and internet company recently opening a new office in Bengaluru - their largest outside of Japan, its chief people officer Nalini George tells People Matters what makes India a key market to lead the company’s expansion.
How India’s talent pool is fuelling Rakuten Group's growth, innovation in APAC region

Rakuten India, the global product and innovation centre for Rakuten Group, opened their new office in Bengaluru last week, underlining the Japanese electronic commerce and internet company’s commitment to making India its global innovation centre.

A 20-storey, state-of-the art, modern building, Rakuten's Crimson House Bengaluru is the company's largest outside of Japan. Strategically located in the heart of the city, it is one of the largest office spaces for a technology company in the central business district. With a capacity for housing 3,000-plus employees, it currently accommodates 2,000 employees with room to grow.

The product, engineering, and advanced research facility represents further expansion of the company’s global technology footprint and will focus on developing and delivering a wide range of cross-industry, deep technology solutions to help drive digital transformation and innovation for customers and partners.

Against this backdrop, Nalini George, chief people officer, Rakuten India, in an exclusive interaction with People Matters, talks about the company’s hiring strategy, how they plan to compete in the ongoing talent war, and what makes India a key market to lead the company’s expansion.

Here are edited excerpts

What are your expansion plans, in terms of recruitment?

Our talent growth is an integral part of our growth strategy. Our hiring did not stop even during the pandemic. Our growth in India in the last 18-24 months is over 70%. We will continue to invest in the right talent and build strong engineering and product teams to further strengthen Rakuten globally.

Our current office can accommodate over 3,000 employees. We are around 2,000 employees including our permanent, and contract staff and interns. In the coming years, we would love to see this facility completely occupied.

India is the second-largest technology centre outside of Japan and we will continue to create stronger teams and drive research and innovation for Rakuten Group.

How do you plan to fuel the initial expansion in terms of talent availability?

Rakuten is a global conglomerate. Our business cuts across different domains such as ecommerce, fintech, mobile, research etc.

Our strategy has always been a combination of both lateral hires and interns.. hiring experienced people where necessary and cultivating a pool of interns as part of the long-term strategy.

We need experienced people immediately for project deliverables; however, our interns are constantly learning to pick up larger roles as the opportunities in Rakuten are huge.

Interns come with a very strong creative mindset, and we are very agile when it comes to moving them across domains, or training them on various latest technologies. Our interns' bootcamp is very stringent and well thought out, some of our interns get an opportunity to directly work on projects even during the internship. Hence, the learning curve for interns is fast and many choose Rakuten because of this.

Our policies are employee-focused and employees get opportunities to move projects every 24 months. This helps us advance experienced employees for newer projects while quickly back-filling with either interns or lateral hires for ongoing projects. This, in turn, has helped us retain some of our some of our critical employees.

The battle for talent is here to stay, at least in the short-term... we have a strong well-oiled talent acquisition team to ensure talent availability is not a hindrance to our growth.

What makes India a key market to lead the company's expansion?

India, historically, has been a location of choice for many global companies. For Rakuten, India is a strategic location to fuel its growth in terms of engineering and product engagement. There is a distinct advantage when it comes to quick turnaround to set up any team whether it's engineering, product, program or research – we have got it all!

We have now launched our B2B product, ‘SixthSense’ in the Indian market. We have been using this product in some of the global businesses of Rakuten, and will now focus on externalising this not just in India but also in other global markets.

We have leaders with global experience based out of India and managing teams across different geographies. This gives us a competitive advantage in terms of understating the business and also delivering products and services across ecommerce, fintech, mobile, research, etc.

What are the values, traits, philosophy that the company brings from the headquarters, and how to trickle these down to the local market?

Rakuten Group is a global company. Our official language is English even in Japan.

The unique part of Rakuten is our beautiful blend of Indian and Japanese cultures with a global mindset. This helps us create a boundaryless environment which fosters leadership, continuous learning, and innovation at its core.

Our open culture helps us understand the needs of the employees and swiftly act upon them to ensure our employees feel valued and belonged. The core values of Rakuten are embedded in our everyday office behaviour. Our Shugi principles teach us how to succeed, collaborate, respect, and carry out our daily work with the least hindrance.

One example that I would like to talk about is our “Q1Asakai”. Our CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani (Micky), talks to us every Monday. Cite one company where the CEO connects with all employees globally every Monday. The transparency and trust with which we operate are what make us a different company.  

Learning English is mandatory in Rakuten Japan. In Bengaluru, we have 100 hours of Japanese class for our employees to learn if they wish to. It is amazing how our cultures blend to make a great organisation!

How do you plan to compete in the ongoing talent war?

The market has changed, and this kind of talent war is unprecedented. We decided long back that we do not want to be part of this war, while we also understand that we cannot ignore it.

Our philosophy has been to retain the amazing existing talent we have by providing them with the right opportunities. Our employees stay with us because they love the work they do, they have opportunities to move internally across domains and also look out for international opportunities within Rakuten.

We understand some leave us because of the current market situation, however, that is something we cannot avoid.

Our hiring strategy has always been a combination of lateral hires and interns as a long-term strategy, this has helped us during the talent war.

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Topics: Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Strategic HR

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