BACK in 2006, Poonam Gupta was juggling her four-year old business and one-year old daughter, while pregnant with her second child, and doctors had just told her she could die at any moment.

“That was hard; I had a young child. And we were preparing, I was preparing to die,” she says.

Ms Gupta, who owns Greenock-based commodities and logistics business PG Paper with her husband Puneet, had been diagnosed with a rare auto-immune condition that led doctors to believe a simple infection could kill her.

Incredibly, Ms Gupta refused to let this not inconsiderable inconvenience stop her working and so even when confined to a wheelchair as her foot swelled up to three times its normal size, she continued to steer the business and bring up her daughter.

Before this life-defining experience, she had arrived in Scotland in 2002, newly married to Puneet, a Belfast-born pharmacist. The couple settled in Kilmacolm, and in spite of an MBA in international business, she struggled to find a job – being either over-qualified or having insufficient experience in Scotland.

Instead, she began to buy and sell paper internationally, drawn to that particular commodity because her husband’s family made specialist paper in India.

Her first business plan had year one turnover of £300,000. She passed that number in two months. PG Paper was born.

The company is now present in 52 countries, where company staff and a host of agents and partners operate on its behalf.

Turnover slipped seven per cent to £22.6m in the year to March 2016, as pre-tax profits fell 50 per cent to £573,000 in tough trading conditions, but Ms Gupta said it was set to grow 20 per cent this year after a move from operating out of the family home to a Grade A building in Greenock.

The demise of the paper industry, in Ms Gupta’s view, has perhaps been exaggerated.

“The demand in publishing is going down but in many countries the demand for office products, for education, it is growing,” she says. “Packaging is another big one, everything needs packaged, your food, your TV. We’ve maintained market share in publishing, and in the other areas like packaging we’re actively growing.”

Last year PG Paper bought the Trucard and Gemini brands from the collapsed Tullis Russell business to help expand its paper offer, while its logistics business now moves a wide range of commodities, with 85 per cent of its export business going to the Indian sub-continent.

Key to its growth strategy is acquisition, with Ms Gupta saying the company looks at about half a dozen targets a year – highlighting meetings in the Netherlands, Finland and Japan last year.

When discussing future business plans, Ms Gupta sparkles, but for the period of her illness – which was to last from 2006 until 2008, she really believed that each day could be her last and that her daughter would grow up without a mother.

“My work and my daughter kept me going,” she says. “When I used to look at her, I was still 26 and a child needs a mother. I couldn’t imagine her without her mother. That was the driving force; she was my will to live.”

Confined to a wheelchair, Ms Gupta headed for India, pregnant and with her daughter, to visit family. While there, a doctor asked if she had been tested for bone tuberculosis.

The disease is relatively common on the Indian sub-continent, but incredibly rare in the UK and so it had been missed. The auto-immune condition had been a misdiagnosis.

Ms Gupta underwent 18 months of treatment before full health returned. “Once they knew, this was much better than what I’d been diagnosed with. I knew I’d get better and would be cured. That helped me bounce back,” he says.

Still only 30, Ms Gupta refocused on the business with renewed vigour. Having been stable throughout her illness, turnover doubled the year her treatment ended.

“It made me a better person. I’m grateful to be here. I have two lovely daughters and I teach them the ethos that I work with. I’m grateful for my family. I worked hard when I was ill and I was given a second chance so I thought ‘where can we go from here?’.”

That momentum acted as a catalyst for the expansion that brought PG Paper to where it is today.

Ms Gupta said she always wanted to run her own business, and from a young age growing up in Delhi, her parents supported this – her dad defying social norms by purchasing for his eager daughter, business magazines. “He supported me unconditionally,” she says.

Calling her mother “an incredibly intelligent women”, Ms Gupta gets visibly emotional when discussing the impact her mother’s death had on her.

In a cruel twist, her mother passed away not long after Ms Gupta arrived in Scotland. By the time she had endured “the longest plane journey of my life” to return to Delhi it was too late, and she never got to say goodbye.

“After that I felt I could cope with anything, that nothing could be as bad as what I had gone through. It made me strong. That was my first life-changer, it changed everything inside me.”

The drive and ingenuity that Ms Gupta subsequently put into her business and raising her family is now also used in charitable endeavours.

She helped set up Scottish Circle, along with Annie Lennox, Danielle Nardini, former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, and Farah Khushi of Trespass Clothing

The charity has raised £400,000 and been involved in a multitude of projects, from violence against women in Pakistan, to female genital mutilation in Kenya, and supporting women in Africa growing their own coffee beans, with Matthew Algie.

“Coming from India, it is second nature,” she says. “My mother would gather poor children on the street and ask me to teach them along with her. Her thinking was always that you should give back to society.

“In India you see poverty in the real sense. There are gender inequality issues, and I had to fight my own battles growing up so it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t do anything.”

This culminated by being named Scottish Asian Businesswomen of the Year in 2009, and last month, being awarded an OBE.

“That came as a total surprise,” she says. “It was not in the plan. I’m really touched and humbled. The way I feel, I came here with nothing, this country gave me a lot of love, it gave me my identity.”

Her eye is always on the horizon however, looking at the next step and now that she has given back to the community and the country that embraced her, she is turning her attention to its start-up businesses – as well as continuing to grow her own.

“There are bigger plans [for PG Paper], we are going to grow. We had some slowdown periods, my illness, the recession, but there is still big scope in this business, especially with the strategy we are implementing and the team we’re expanding.”