The rules of engagement

I write in March’s issue of  about the story of  a man who has kept alive his dream of setting up a manufacturing plant for forklifts in the region for several years.

I first came across David O’Callaghan and his company, named Etali, shortly after I first arrived in Dubai. Back then the city was filled with a lot of chancers – I know some of you would argue it still is! – and it would have been easy to judge David and his dream of using local money to set up an international forklift truck factory as yet another flight of fantasy.

And so did I. Credit to David, when I wrote a story questioning whether this was a scheme that was truly bonafide, he contacted me to explain what Etali was about, the technology it possessed and how a company with roots in the north of England had found itself talking to billionaires in the Gulf.

David’s attempts have gone through many guises over the years. First he used the Shaw name he inherited over two decades ago from the now-defunct company in the hopes of setting up in Abu Dhabi. The financial crisis ended that dream. Next he re-surfaced as Etali, and now as Exalt with Saudi Arabian money, workers and sites all targeted.

He told me that he has come close to getting his project off the ground on a number of occasions but the crucial investment he needs remains elusive. Time and time again he has returned home to England with nothing to show for his effort but expense and promises.

O’Callaghan has tackled a lot of the preconceptions he’s encountered by being the outsider that is looking in.

When we met I approached it as an investor digging down into the fundamentals of the business and clearly his knowledge, not just of the industry but the region, shows that he is a great student of the region and that he’s smart.

He’s also learned the value of something tangible and brought with him a precious 3D model of the modular designed truck he dreams of producing one day.

Whether it is finally enough, is far too early to tell. I am also not fully qualified to judge whether the design he holds can be the revolutionary game changer he hopes it is, but I wish him all the luck in his endeavours.

Before he left he told me that he’ll keep coming back until he finds that elusive partner – and I believe him. I’ve never met someone so outwardly devoid of cynicism as David O’Callaghan and I hope that should he find that special investor he needs they don’t take advantage of him or his ideas.

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