A startup sees Kuwait’s property-rental industry ripe for disruption

A startup sees Kuwait’s property-rental industry ripe for disruption
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Ajar is exploring more expansion opportunities to eventually cover most GCC markets. (Supplied)
A startup sees Kuwait’s property-rental industry ripe for disruption
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Ajar CEO Shaheen Al-Khudhari. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 December 2020

A startup sees Kuwait’s property-rental industry ripe for disruption

A startup sees Kuwait’s property-rental industry ripe for disruption
  • Day-to-day realities of being a tenant or a landlord provide endless business opportunities in Gulf state
  • Shaheen Al-Khudhari launched Ajar to find tech-based solution to property management and rent collection issues

KUWAIT: An expat landing in the Gulf for the very first time will surely find it a melange of unique experiences. Trying to lock down a rental deal is one of them. In a market with one too many expats and too many options to choose from, the challenge is as real as it gets.

Even if one does achieve the seemingly impossible and finds a place to call home, outdated payment systems can prove to be another thorn in their side. This endless dilemma inspired Shaheen Al-Khudhari back in 2016 to find a definitive tech-based solution. Thus, he became the founder and CEO of Ajar, a property management and rent collection startup.

“The idea sprung when I moved into a new apartment and started facing issues with rent payments, chasing for receipts, withdrawing and safekeeping large chunks of cash for payment, worrying about missing out on the payment if I was not in the country and so on,” Al-Khudhari shares.

Having identified key issues in Kuwait’s real estate market, Al-Khudhari launched Ajar to provide the ultimate convenience to landlords and tenants. The former get a full-fledged property management service in real time, while the latter get to pay their rent without breaking a sweat.

The next step was to convince potential clients to use Ajar services, which was not as big of a challenge as it may seem.

“With my experience as an IT manager in a real estate company, I was able to reach out to many potential landlords that I knew had problems keeping track of their real estate performance. Once those joined, it was a word-of-mouth and network effect that really got Ajar up and running, reaching our first 10,000 units in quite a short time.”

After the astounding success in Kuwait, the next logical step for Ajar was to expand to the Gulf’s biggest real estate market – Dubai. The company later moved its headquarters there. “The UAE’s real estate market is international, with a global mindset, but the practices for rent collection are very unfriendly to the tenant and rather outdated,” Al-Khudhari said. “Rent payment in Dubai didn’t match the (progressive) vision for the city.”

From there on, Ajar exponentially grew in popularity and number of users, which in turn attracted investments that amount to $7.5 million to date.

The onset of the pandemic in March 2020 brought fresh opportunities to Ajar. In a world suddenly left with no choice but to seek contactless transactions and remote management, the company was perfectly equipped to overcome the challenges brought forth by Covid-19. In fact, it has generated more business during the pandemic than in any year since its inception.

“During the lockdown, when banks were closed and people couldn’t step out of their houses, we were the only solution provider for property management and rent collection that was actively collecting rent,” said Al-Khudhari.

“We also learnt from this experience how crucial it is to have a team with a strong mindset that doesn’t get affected by negative media coverage – a focused, knowledgeable and dedicated team can get any company to be the best in its field.”

Today, Ajar is exploring more expansion opportunities to eventually cover most GCC markets in the next few months. Of particular interest are Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but the company does not plan to stop there. “We’ll then be heading to more virgin markets which need to digitize their solutions, like Malaysia,” said Al-Khudhari.

 

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 48 min 1 sec ago

Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Multiple cities have experienced blackouts and a halt to industrial work in recent weeks
  • Tehran offering $4,750 reward for informants who expose illegal cryptocurrency mining operations

LONDON: Iran has ordered a crackdown on cryptocurrency miners after blackouts in major cities were attributed to the excess toll the activity takes on the energy grid.

Parts of Tehran, as well as Mashhad and Tabriz, have experienced repeated blackouts in recent weeks, temporarily halting production lines and plunging the cities into darkness.

State electricity company Tavanir said it had temporarily halted all known crypto-mining operations, including a Chinese-Iranian mine in Rafsanjan that is reported to have been consuming 175 megawatt hours — enough electricity to power an average Western home for 17 years.

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin.

The process is extremely energy intensive, meaning that cryptocurrency mining is most profitable in locations with cheap energy.

Because of significant state subsidies and excess fuel reserves held by Iran due to sanctions, oil-fueled electricity is very cheap in the country — less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour.

This has massively fueled production of cryptocurrencies in Iran, to the extent that in 2020, the country was responsible for 8 percent of all the world’s Bitcoin production.

The effect of the crypto-mining on Iran’s grids has become such a problem that the government is now offering a $4,750 reward for tips on illegal crypto-mining locations.

At $35,000 each, the price of Bitcoin has reached record levels in recent weeks, making mining of the currency particularly attractive in a place with few economic opportunities such as Iran.

The appeal of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is also relevant for states and groups that operate on the fringes of the global economy, such as Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, as well as terrorist groups.

Bitcoins can be traded outside the traditional banking system, allowing Iran to circumvent economic sanctions on its financial sectors, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Daesh to trade on the black market anonymously.

In 2019, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would launch its own cryptocurrency to circumvent US sanctions, but little else is known about the project.

Despite the difficulty in tracing cryptocurrency transactions, in 2018 the US sanctioned two Iranians who had been converting cryptocurrency into Iranian rials on behalf of hackers who had targeted American corporations, hospitals, universities and government agencies.