Shaheen Al Khudari, Founder and CEO, Ajar
Proptech startup Ajar has recently announced that its latest investment was a multi-million round, with it stating that it has raised a total of US$7.5 million to date. The startup, which was originally launched in Kuwait and is now headquartered in Dubai, was founded in 2016 as an online payment solution and property management solution catered to help landlords and tenants digitize rent payments and collection in a flexible and seamless approach.
It has now grown to include a wide variety of automation solutions that can help real estate investors and companies manage their properties efficiently, with over 35,000 units across Kuwait and the UAE on the platform currently. Shaheen Al Khudari, Founder and CEO of Ajar, talks to CM today about the challenges they overcame during the pandemic and the journey ahead…
Ajar was recently named UAE’s Most Trusted FinTech in 2020. What can we expect from you in the coming years?
We are honored to be named UAE’s Most Trusted FinTech in 2020. The credibility we gained from our clients, through helping them digitalize the rent and property management side of their real estate business, is the fruit of our labor.
We have set the standard for rent payments and we always plan to better ourselves. We plan to empower tenants across the GCC by enabling them to pay their rent online. Tenants will no longer need to wait for their landlords' approval to allow them to pay through their preferred method. Ajar will take on the responsibility of contacting the landlords, and depositing the rent into their bank accounts, all within a matter of hours.
Ajar played a critical role during the COVID-19 crisis, arming the real estate industry with the tools to continue their rent collection and management despite country-wide lockdowns and limited operations in many industries. What were some of the key challenges that you faced and overcame during the pandemic?
As a company, we take our customer's challenges as our own and we set our goals to fix them. During the COVID-19 crisis, both landlords and tenants were faced with a lot of uncertainty. We helped by ensuring solid communication between both parties, which resulted in mutual trust between landlords and tenants. Most of our landlords have reached 100% rent collection due to communication enhancement.
Another challenge we faced was educating the general market. As a rent collection and property management platform, we have access to useful insights for landlords to avoid facing bankruptcy. We used our insights to educate the market, by providing three info-graphic studies about market practices and behaviors. Many landlords suffered from decreased rent collection, and blamed it on COVID-19. While in reality, this was primarily influenced by a lack of tactics during the crisis. Ajar's data about the real estate industry's performance significantly benefited the Central Bank and consulting companies.
How important is it for the Community Management industry to embrace PropTech solutions? Do you feel the change taking place?
A change is definitely taking place as many landlords are embracing technologies, such as Ajar, to ensure that their tenants have a safe and contactless payment method.
Having been one of the earlier players in the PropTech field, where do you see this industry in the coming years?
The COVID-19 crisis accelerated many of the industry's developments. It pushed landlords to digitalize their systems and work processes. This pushed the industry towards building what was planned for 2030, to building it in 2020. We will see a lot of consolidation in PropTech solutions and innovations that help landlords and tenants collect and pay rent, respectively, with reward.