BANGKOK/JAKARTA: Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce business, is planning to leverage its B2B2C model to become the world's leading e-commerce player by 2020.

Toru Shimada, Rakuten Asia chairman and CEO, said this approach empowered local merchants, unlike the B2C model favoured by the likes of Amazon.

Rakuten currently has e-commerce businesses in 13 countries and is building its capabilities in Asia, with a focus on logistics and payment services, in addition to educating local merchants in new markets about how they can best utilise e-commerce.

Shimada told the Jakarta Post that Rakuten Belanja Online, the company's Indonesian unit, was now expanding into financial services to guarantee "high quality payment".

Local CEO Ryota Inaba observed the online payment ratio now stood at 60%. "Mobile payment in Indonesia is growing, but online has gotten much better too, compared to two years ago, thanks to infrastructure improvement," he said.

Shimada was also excited by the potential offered by Thailand which he described as "one of the next star countries for Rakuten", with growth of 50% predicted for 2013.

As in Indonesia, online payment was around 60% but Shimada was keen to see this grow. "We need to encourage e-commerce users to use online payment as much as possible," he told The Nation.

As well as offering a fulfilment service to SMEs in the region, Rakuten was also embedding its global e-commerce system in domestic sites, so removing the boundaries for merchants to reach a global consumer base.

And while Rakuten's business remained largely based on desktop users Shimada was well aware that many Asians accessed the internet via smartphones and tablets and that the company would need to address this.

"We see a good future for smartphone applications for e-commerce because the web technology on smartphones and tablets has improved and is of better quality," he said.

Data sourced from The Nation, Jakarta Post; additional content by Warc staff