On 28 September 2020, we were featured on the BBC World Service as a successful business, with a customer-centric focus.
The original article was published in more than ten languages - across Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. We have translated it into English for you. Enjoy reading!
By Pablo Uchoa
BBC World Service
Eugene Cheow smiled and said, half-jokingly: "I can fit the entire syllabus into my Mind Maps."
"I also scuba dive and like drinking free coffee at the World Trade Centre," he exclaimed.
That's how Cheow, a 24-year-old business student from Singapore Management University, summed up his life in an hour-long Zoom conversation between London and his bedroom in his parents' home in Singapore.
We talked about learning, business and most importantly, his life experiences, from the warm waters of Southeast Asia to the urban jungle of Mexico.
But first, the reason why Cheow became famous.
After he successfully passed the exam to become a realtor in Singapore, Cheow shared his notes - called Mind Maps, for sale online.
Although Cheow was not the first person to monetise study notes, his course materials suddenly sold out.
He has sold more than 1,500 of his Mind Maps till date. At a time, he made over S$1,000 in a week. And just like that, the sale of study notes transformed into a business.
To become a broker in Singapore, a candidate must take a 60-hour course and complete a two-part exam, known as the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) exam.
"Actually, it’s not an easy process. As you know, Singapore is very strict on regulations," Cheow told the BBC.
"I realized that there is a great demand for quick and simple learning methods."
On top of a complimentary sample of the Mind Map, users can download all 16 Mind Maps which Cheow used to successfully study for the exams.
Mind Maps are a graphical way of representing concepts and ideas, making it easier for the brain to visualize relationships between points.
Cheow's Mind Maps contain legal and marketing concepts, mathematical formulas, tables, as well as various other elements of the syllabus.
"Mind Maps help you connect different fields of study and give you a macro view of any subject. If you want, you can also zoom in to a specific area," Cheow explains.
"If you have a question about a specific subject, you can trace the information back using a Mind Map, instead of having to read the textbook and entire chapters just to answer that question."
"You're tricking your brain into learning, which is a nice way of framing the technique. Ultimately, it's really just another way of learning."
‘Language doesn't matter’
Cheow said his expertise in teaching and non-verbal communication was born out of his passion for scuba diving, which he has been doing for a long time.
He has been training since the age of 14 and three years ago, after becoming a Dive Master, he has also become an instructor - taking groups of divers to beautiful diving spots in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
"As a dive instructor, you realize that language is an asset, but not a necessity in communication," he said.
"You can't talk underwater, you can't say, 'Hello,' or, 'My dive mask is leaking.' It's all facial expressions and hand gestures."
Cheow says diving has given him two qualities: firstly, the ability to connect with people from different cultures. This includes people who dive with him in different parts of the world or who learn to dive from him.
Secondly, a sense of adventure, "especially for a Singaporean boy like me, who has lived in a sheltered environment, in terms of upbringing and education".
The human connection
Cheow likes to tell the story when he ended up enjoying a cafecito ("small coffee") in Mexico City's World Trade Centre (WTC).
For a business student, he said, visiting the WTC tower "is one of the greatest things about going abroad and I really wanted to experience it in person".
Last year, Cheow was an exchange student to the charming state of Puebla, southeast of Mexico's capital.
He described Puebla as "beautiful and quaint" and Mexican people as "extremely friendly".
When he showed up without an appointment at the WTC in Mexico City, he managed to climb to the 27th floor and fulfil his dream of visiting the WTC offices.
The native Cuban manager there was initially surprised but interested to hear about Singapore's education system, among other things.
Before leaving Mexico, Cheow returned to the WTC with a Singaporean souvenir and was greeted by the Cuban manager and his team with a bottle of rum.
HR experts gave him a personality test - and unsurprisingly, Cheow scores highly when it comes to communication.
Cheow’s company, The RES Tutor, helps users better prepare for the RES exam and become a sales agent in Singapore.
He said he was considering expanding his business into other areas - but at the same time, he wanted to be successful "in a scalable way, to make sure the fundamental business model works".
"The customer gives S$80 for a few bytes of information. So, you have to make sure that the asset you give to other people, even if it’s an intangible one, is valuable," he said.
Surprisingly, Cheow himself had no plans to become a broker. He just wants to be able to help his mother, who has been in the real estate business for 30 years, in case she needs to delegate her workload.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the student was supposed to start an internship at Marina Bay Sands, a resort that has been touted as the world's most expensive independent casino property when it opened in 2010.
Cheow says The RES Tutor is likely to be a "side business” as he enjoys being able to help people reach their career goals.
"I don't want to just have customers. It’s not merely a transaction," he said. "I like to make it a relationship."
"When they have taken the test and they tell me they passed, I'm really happy because it means my Mind Maps have truly helped them."
Translated from the original BBC articles: