Rakuten Belanja Online launched Rakuten University in Indonesia, the first one in Southeast Asia, yesterday. Rakuten University is a facility that helps SMEs to enter e-commerce. It works likely to similiar established programs in Indonesia like Elevenia’s Seller Zone.

“Rakuten’s mission as a company is to empower sellers and buyers. It’s a basic business approach which may be carried on by several ways, including Rakuten EXPO, E-Commerce Consultant, and this Rakuten University,” claimed Rakuten Belanja Online’s (RBO) Director Yasunobu Hashimoto.

This maneuver is expected to benefit SMEs. The Indonesian e-commerce market is projected to surpass USD 18 billion by the end of 2015, yet less than 1% of local SMEs make use of e-commerce to make their business more profitable. This Rakuten University is expected to support the implementation of SME Empowerment and MicroB programmes which are intended to break down the barriers upon entering e-commerce.

“The SMEs contribute nearly 60% to Indonesian GDP and more than 97% to employment. We’re going to provide opportunities to our sellers to profit through the industrial knowledge and understanding that we extract from our 15 years of experience in the industry,” Hashimoto said.

The “subjects” that Rakuten University Indonesia offers will definitely help merchants in developing their business. The subjects vary from basic course to help those who just start their business, to middle and advanced courses to help more experienced ones to perfect their business and marketing strategies, as well as understand the trends among consumers.

There are three education media at Rakuten University – Classroom, Rux, and Meet-ups! Classroom is where the merchants get direct learning session, while Rux is an online library. Meet-ups!, on the other hand, is a series of workshops that is held from one city in Indonesia to another, giving merchants an opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas. Rakuten University Indonesia will be initiated by Classroom launching for top merchants, to later take the program to a more advanced level.

Rakuten University was first established in Japan back in 2000 to provide the merchants with solid business plan. The program was initiated by Rakuten’s Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, who intended to develop the merchants’ originality and performance by enriching them with the knowledge that he collected during his Master at Harvard Business School.

Rakuten University is currently offering courses in 11 out of 13 countries where Rakuten operates. It was built based on customer relations. “Through Rakuten University, the merchants will get introduced to ‘Omotenashi’ concept, a popular phrase from Japan which means ‘to entertain guests with heart’, as well as the spirit behind our e-commerce business,” Sachiko Saigo, Rakuten Ichiba’s Group Manager International EC Department, stated.