Even as the novel coronavirus pandemic throws the global economy into turmoil and as commercial activities are paralyzed in Japan under the state of emergency declared by the government, at least one sector is seeing an expansion in demand — “virtual” business models and online transactions that do not involve face-to-face meetings.
Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten Inc., the massive operator of online shopping malls, says the group is doing brisk business — except for its travel unit. Government “stay-home” requests have sharply reduced demand for travel, but the growing thirst for internet-based services is making up for the losses. E-commerce by consumers buying daily necessities, web-based securities trade, viewership for videos and sports events, and videoconferences on social media are on the rise.
In line with the government’s push for more cashless transactions, Rakuten is beefing up its smartphone electronic payment services. Smartphone-based payments are becoming popular among people who do not want to touch cash because of the pandemic, says Mikitani.