Al-Karim Khimji: Propra Is an All-in-One Property Management Solution for Residential Landlords and Property Managers

Propra is an all-in-one property management solution for residential landlords and property managers. Our end-to-end solution is built around the principle of a single source of truth and includes a full cycle accounting system tied to robust maintenance, inspections, and communications.

Many solutions focus on solving a single part of the business, which has led to fragmented, frustrating, and inefficient workflows for our customer base. Propra simplifies property management so managers can run their business from a single browser tab.

Tell us about yourself?

Growing up in a small family business (literally, we lived in the back of my family’s motel), I saw what it took to grow a business and how a family can come together to build something special.

Many years later during my time at McKinsey, I wanted to build on what I knew and saw an opportunity to start my own residential rental portfolio. After building a small portfolio, I realized I needed a transparent, consolidated, and streamlined way to manage residential units/properties.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

A few things stand out as I reflect on the journey and business. First, I would remind myself that it’s important to (and ok to) take time to think about the business, learnings, and what we are hearing, and be intentional about that feedback.

This stage of the business is all about listening to the customer and the market and adapting constantly and quickly. Creating time for reflection is a top priority for us. In addition, spend time to deeply understand the underlying motivation and causes behind our customers’ desires.

Many times the surface-level features that they request are caused by a deeper rooted inefficiency that can be solved with our current software or the development of a feature with higher leverage that revolutionizes their entire business.

Project and design planning in the context of a startup is always quite interesting. As we learn from our customers and as the market evolves, oftentimes there are project delays.

For planning purposes, I would consider adding a factor of 2x on timeline and 2x on cost — always better to be conservative in planning!

What problem does your business solve?

Canadian property managers are overwhelmed by the thousands of paper files and point solutions needed to run their business.

This is an unsustainable practice and when property managers try to scale they can quickly become overwhelmed with tracking information, completing manual processes, and communicating with tenants and operators.

Consumers are already used to a standard of technology when engaging and absorbing information. Take, for example, the consumer experience with an app like SkipTheDishes. Consumers know exactly where their pizza is, be it in the oven or on the road.

They can anticipate opening your front door the moment the delivery driver pulls up, and they have that peace of mind because that information helps you feel like you’re in control. How do we bring that comfort and transparency to the resident-landlord relationship?

What is the inspiration behind your business?

A few years after my time at McKinsey, I met Craig Adam, a former technology leader at SkipTheDishes. We recognized that together we could build something to improve the landlord and tenant relationship and help the 1 out of every 3 Canadians that live in rental accommodations.

We did extensive research and interviews. We learned that the business of property management was demanding for both parties. Property managers have very slim margins that can be as low as 6% while over 40% of tenants are unsatisfied with their rental’s maintenance.

We realized we could do something meaningful using technology to change this relationship. As a result, Propra was born.

By combining Craig’s technical background as the Director of Technology at SkipTheDishes, where he grew the technology team from 30 to 300 team members, with my experience in real estate combined with my time at McKinsey, we created an all-in-one Canadian property management solution for individuals, as well as small and medium residential landlords and property managers.

What is your magic sauce?

In comparison to our competitors who bolt on point solutions that are isolated from the software’s information ecosystem, we have an all-in-one solution so landlords and property managers spend less time on paperwork, finding information, and follows up, and can spend more time on growth and improving tenant experience.

This all-in-one approach allows us to create automatic processes that draw information from across the platform revolutionizing the way property managers do their business by automating their time-consuming manual tasks.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

In the next 5 years, we’re looking to create a fully rounded product that transforms every aspect of a property manager’s business. Our main goal with everything we do is to improve the workflows of property managers. We recently discussed with a customer the impact we had on their business.

With their old software, each maintenance request took 15-30 minutes of administrative work on their end, but with Propra, that was cut down to just 3 minutes — this is over $36,000 in savings for them annually.

Our vision is to apply this same time-saving perspective to all aspects of the property management business.

Across the board, we’re currently saving a manager with 500 units, several hundreds of hours of work per year and we’re looking to push that number into the thousands of hours with our upcoming features.

This will enable property managers to either take back their personal lives or keep pushing and sustainably scale their businesses.

From a business perspective, we’re looking to continue expanding across Canada becoming the primary property management software while pushing into the U.S. and achieving significant market penetration.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Our biggest challenge has been adapting to the current changing financial climate and evolving our current business model to remain sustainable.

We’ve been anticipating a significant slowdown since the beginning of the year and began putting in place the systems needed to slow our burn and extend our runway as a company.

The biggest change in course came when we realized after a couple months of operation that we needed to adapt our strategy to create the greatest value for the industry.

When we began, we were focused on developing a seamless maintenance request handler and while this fulfilled many of our goals, we were just adding another point system to managers’ long list of software.

This conclusion shifted our paradigm and gave us the clarity to focus on creating an all-in-one system. At the time this was a shocking shift in course but now we look fondly at this point as the moment when we truly recognized the opportunity at hand.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

In addition, we’re always looking for residential property managers who are looking to level up their property management software and stop paying for point solutions.

As well, we are interested in connecting with people who are interested in supporting our journey to scale and grow the venture.

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