Shaheen Al Khudhari, Ceo & Co-Founder, Ajar
Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” This seems true for Ajar, a leading FinTech company whose idea took shape when an industry veteran, Shaheen Al Khudhari, saw an opportunity to solve the challenges faced by landlords and tenants by taking the real estate industry digital.
Shaheen pinpointed several challenges in the industry. Collection was still manual, time consuming, and therefore costly. Most landlords made decisions based on “hunches”, rather than real data and insights. And the process wasn’t any easier for tenants, who were still required to pay via cash or cheques every month, and somehow not lose the paper receipts that came with every transaction.
Thus, Shaheen quit his job, and founded Ajar in 2016 to facilitate seamless online property management and rent payments. His landlord became Ajar’s first client and since then, the company has enabled online rent collection and property management to over 10% of Kuwait’s rental market with fast expansion in the UAE.
Addressing the Needs of Tenants and Landlords Alike
As a leader in the real estate market, Ajar empowers landlords, property managers, and real estate owners with seamless online rent collection, automated reconciliation, smart insights and reporting, flexible lease and invoice management, maintenance tracking, and streamlined tenant communication.
Ajar also provides a seamless and rewarding rent payment experience to tenants. Tenants can pay their rent and home-related expenses online instantly, while accumulating discounts and rewards in the process. With Ajar, tenants can also request maintenance using the platform with just a couple of clicks and communicate with their landlords efficiently.
Building Trust and Credibility in the Market
Today, Ajar stands tall as a reliable rent collection platform in the UAE and Kuwait. The 4-year-old startup established trust and credibility in the market through its resilience and commitment to security.
“We recognize the importance of security and privacy in the sector we operate in, and our commitment to following global security standards has given us credibility in every market we operate in,” states Shaheen.
The company has also attained a unique edge in the market by building strategic partnerships with leading financial entities such as Kuwait Finance House (KFH) and Ahli United Bank (AUB) as well as central banks.
“We proudly work with some of the most reputable real estate companies in our region which add to our credibility,” affirms Shaheen.
Forging Towards Success with a Diligent Team
The pioneering company attributes its success and reputation in the industry to its ambitious team that is made up of passionate disruptors and entrepreneurs. Under the insightful leadership of Shaheen, the team is rigorously working towards the mission of making real estate seamless. Keeping the company’s core values—trust, accountability, leadership, communication, simplicity and innovation as the cornerstone, the diligent team at Ajar is catalyzing the internal growth and overall success of the company.
“These values guide both how we do business internally, as well as the product we’re building to serve our clients’ needs,” asserts Shaheen.
Taking an Active Role in Combating the Outbreak of COVID-19
With most countries in the GCC in quarantine, the ability to digitize everything from day-to-day management to rent collection has become a necessity for landlords and property managers.
Most banks have closed or limited their hours, making it difficult to cash cheques. Through Ajar, landlords have been able to continue their online collection, regardless of the curfews or lockdowns implemented in different cities. Ajar is also becoming the preferred collection method for landlords due to the amount of money it saves, an important factor in sustaining revenue during these difficult times.
“We are working closely with our landlords to provide them with the tools and insight they need to maximize ROI amid this crisis. With the help of Ajar, many of our landlords were able to support their tenants with automated discounts and friendlier installment plans, allowing them to both develop goodwill with their tenants while sustaining their revenue stream,” says Shaheen.
The crisis has also left tenants demanding a safe, contactless online option for paying rent, which Ajar has readily provided. Paying online with Ajar is not only safer, but it also gives tenants who are struggling financially the ability to still pay via credit card and keep their homes during this crisis.
Planning Expansion While Enhancing Customer Experience
Moving ahead, Ajar intends to improve its platform to automate all the processes from finding the right tenant, to managing collection, handling maintenance, assessing the property’s return on investment, and beyond.
“Our goal is to ultimately leave only one decision up to landlords: whether to buy or sell a property. Everything that follows would be automated by Ajar,” shares Shaheen.
Delineating the future focus of the company, he further adds, “We are eyeing Saudi Arabia, the biggest real estate market in the GCC, for expansion soon. In the meantime, we’re focused on expanding our product features and developing our platform to allow anyone around the world to sign up for Ajar, and start managing their properties and collecting their rent online immediately.”