ALL she wanted in life was to be a brewer, just like her father.
But Mrs Kiran Mazumdar Shaw's ambition was thwarted by sexism in her home city of Bangalore, India, where the beer-making industry is dominated by men.
Instead, she stumbled into a field that was almost alien to her - biotechnology.
She may not have known it then, but it was a lucky break for the daughter of a master brewer.
Today, Mrs Shaw is India's wealthiest woman after founding Biocon, the biggest biopharmaceutical firm in the country.
Last month, Biocon, which earned US$260 million ($384m) in revenues last year, was named the seventh largest biotech employer in the world by global biotech magazine Med Ad News.
Not bad for a business Mrs Shaw started in 1978 in her garage with a starting capital that was given to her in travellers cheques.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mrs Shaw, who is Biocon's chairman and managing director, said she gave up becoming a brewer to go into a relatively unknown industry to prove a point.
After qualifying as a master brewer at Ballarat University in Australia at 22, she returned to India in 1975 only to find out that none of the breweries wanted to hire a woman.
Her big break came in 1978, when an Irish entrepreneur whom she met through mutual contacts in Australia, persuaded her to use her skills in brewing to create enzymes for industrial use.
'Once I got into the business, I was determined to make it work,' said Mrs Shaw, 55.
'I wanted to show all the breweries who rejected me that I could run a business.'
To start her off, the Irishman gave her US$9,000 worth of seed money in traveller's cheques. Mrs Shaw then set up Biocon in her garage with two employees, and went to work developing papain, an enzyme from papaya used to clarify beer.
Being a budding entrepreneur was hard enough. But being a woman who was young and single made it even harder.
She found that she had great difficulty renting an office and work space.
And when she finally got secured an office space in Bangalore, she found it hard to hire additional staff.
'I couldn't find people to work for me - not even women. I couldn't even find a secretary,' she said.
To make things worse, banks refused to loan her money without a male guarantor.
Being in a relatively new industry didn't help either.
She said: 'Banks didn't know what biotech was. People said, 'What are enzymes? We've never heard of such products.'
But she didn't quit trying. Soon, her perseverance paid off and she managed to get a credit line of US$45,000.
That money helped build a small facility that soon began cranking out enzymes for the brewing industry.
Then it started producing enzymes for baking, textiles, paper, biofuel, starch and fruit juices and exporting to the US and Europe.
But making run-of-the-mill enzymes wasn't enough for Mrs Shaw, who saw research and development as the way forward for Biocon.
She then began developing novel enzymes and finding new applications for them.
In 1988, she decided scale up Biocon's technology to create more sophisticated products.
But despite her success with the company, banks were still reluctant to loan her money to expand.
'They said, 'Other companies are licensing or importing technology. Why are you taking such a big risk?'
'I thought this was crazy. Enzyme technology is about innovation. I was all set to scale up and I was hitting a wall. I was in the depths of despair.'
She got another break in 1989 when she found a bank that would take a chance on her .
Since then, Biocon has been making a name for itself as a global biotech player.
By 1996, Biocon had established a pharmaceutical research outsourcing unit called Syngene that did work for pharmaceutical giants like Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis and Merck.
It also began pushing into higher-margin businesses, making cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins as well as creating a new unit, Clinigene, devoted to clinical research and testing for other drug makers.
Mrs Shaw, who is married to a Scot, said her biggest gamble was Biocon's foray into developing highly complex original drugs, such as oral insulin and treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
She told the Financial Times that the shift into biopharmaceuticals from enzymes was akin to 'making bicycles, then getting into rockets'.
In 2004, Biocon went public in India. By the end of the first day of trading, the company had achieved a market value of US$1.1 billion.
That same year, Mrs Shaw was named India's richest woman, with an estimated net worth of US$480m.
'Now I'm treated on par with my male counterparts. The gender barrier gets obliterated once you succeed,' she said.
'I tell young women not to give up. When you overcome challenges, it makes you more confident.'
This article was first published in The New Paper on Oct 20, 2008.