#44 Rakuten’s Takuya Kitagawa on Digital Twins, Getting a CEO to Love Data, and Moonshots

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Whether you’ve passed your cursor over their logo on a streaming service, spotted it on the front of a Golden State Warriors jersey, or use their cash-back rebate system, the Rakuten brand is everywhere and actively expanding. 

Today’s guest, Takuya Kitagawa is the Managing Executive Officer & CDO at Rakuten. On this episode, Takuya joins Cindi to discuss how the company has found massive, international success across multiple industries by integrating data across lines of business to deliver better customer experiences. He also dives into the importance of data fluency at every level, and elaborates on how Rakuten is leveraging the concept of “digital twins” to better connect with customers. Stick around to hear all of this, plus exciting details regarding Rakuten latest moonshot projects.

Key Takeaways

  • Integrated data delivers better customer experiences: Rakuten has seen major success in offering enhanced services and experiences to customers around the world. Their secret? Integrating data across multiple lines of business, starting with customer login credentials. This approach makes using multiple services a seamless experience and builds customer loyalty.
  • You don’t have to reinvent the wheel: Before building a new technology from the ground up, see if anyone else has already done it. There’s so much you can learn, borrow, or buy from others. If you can learn to leverage the innovation that’s already happening around you, you’ll be in a better position to accelerate your own digital transformation. 
  • Invest in data fluency at every level: It’s important that executives be just as data fluent as anyone else in your organization. For Rakuten, investing in data fluency at the highest levels of leadership manifests as quarterly AI bootcamps and mandatory data trainings. 



  • Dr. Hisataka Kobayashi’s Discovery of photo immunotherapy
  • Harvard University Partnership 
  • FC Barcelona and Golden State Warriors

About Takuya

Takuya Kitagawa is managing executive officer and Chief Data Officer of Rakuten Inc, and serves as the director for Well-being for Planet Earth(WPE). As Chief Data Officer of Rakuten group, he is responsible for the end to end value creation and execution of AI & data strategy, and manages a global organization located across the world including Japan, U.S., India, France and Singapore. He also leads Rakuten institute of technology, R&D function of the group, as the global head. Vision of his group is the fundamental understanding of customers and their behaviors with AI and data; how business and service can empower customers to spend their money and time better. As a board of director for well-being for Planet Earth, he further extends and applies the understanding of human beings and society to contribute to more general domains of well-being across the world. Prior to working on AI, he worked as a theoretical physicist and published more than 20 papers in journals including “Science” and “Nature Physics.” Dr. Kitagawa obtained his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University and A.B. in physics and mathematics from Harvard College.

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Episode 49