One of the top 20 reasons that startups fail is not having the right team.In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of start-ups, the strength and effectiveness of a team can make all the difference between failure and triumph. We were joined by our special guest, Gaurav Agarwal, Co-Founder, Tata 1mg to discuss his experience and insights on how they focused on building capability of their team to meet challenges inherent in a start-up environment.


  • Gaurav Agarwal describes building 1mg as an incredibly gratifying journey, with the core purpose of building a team that embodies collective leadership values.

  • The “Be Your Own CEO” culture in the leadership team originated from values learned from past organizations, focusing on individual initiative, ownership, and accountability.

  • Challenges in implementing this culture included ensuring failure was seen as an opportunity for learning, providing autonomy and decision-making authority, and maintaining the culture as the company grew.

  • The value of “Done is better than perfect” emphasizes focusing on significant opportunities rather than chasing marginal ones.

  • Challenges in hiring top talent from diverse backgrounds can lead to issues with ownership, accountability, and team cohesion. Overcoming these challenges requires evaluating personal accomplishments during interviews, allowing leaders to understand the organization’s dynamics before making drastic changes, and ensuring the initial team aligns with the leader’s vision.

  • Building trust quickly in fast-paced organizations is important. Trust should be given from day one and can be broken if necessary, with a focus on success metrics and allowing autonomy within boundaries.

  • Coaching and training play a vital role in helping startup teams become high performers. Coaches provide a third-party perspective, valuable insights, and a toolkit for reflection.

  • High-performance teams exhibit strong initiative and ownership, trust, healthy conflicts, support, constant growth, and energy.

  • The measurement of a high-performance team includes trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results.Assessing these factors and tracking progress over time can show the tangible changes and impact of building a high-performing team.


Gatik Chaujer – Would love to get a sense of how the journey has been, like, specifically about building an effective team from the ground up? Let’s start with that.

Gaurav Agarwal – Building 1mg has been an incredibly gratifying journey. For me, the core purpose behind this startup was to build a team that embodies our collective leadership values. We strive to do the right thing every time, even if we stumble along the way. And when we make mistakes, we take responsibility and work to rectify them.

Our success and strong brand presence in the ecosystem are reflections of our leadership style and values. The journey has been both gratifying and challenging, filled with roadblocks and setbacks. But through it all, we have developed resilience and a steadfast belief in seeing things through.

Looking back to our early days, we were naive about how things worked and how to exercise effective leadership. But over the years, we have learned and grown. We have embraced concepts like radical candor and servant leadership, becoming practitioners of these principles.

It’s an ongoing struggle to build better organizations, constantly refining our approach. The journey has been full of lessons and learnings, shaping our own unique leadership style.

Gatik Chaujer – Tell us about the origins and implementation of the “Be Your Own CEO” culture within your startup’s leadership team. How do you embody this culture? Did you encounter any challenges along the way? Our viewers are eager to learn from your experiences and avoid common mistakes. Please share your insights.

Gaurav Agarwal – The “Be Your Own CEO” culture in our leadership team originated from the values we learned from past organizations that resonated with us. We realized the importance of individuals taking initiative and ownership to drive change. We wanted to create an organization where everyone feels empowered to make things happen and take accountability. However, implementing this culture came with its challenges. We had to ensure that failure was not punished but seen as an opportunity for learning and growth. We provided autonomy and decision-making authority to individuals, enabling them to make progress without unnecessary encumbrances. As the company grew, maintaining the “Be Your Own CEO” mindset became more complex, but we continued to emphasize self-conviction and humility when things didn’t work out. Another crucial aspect of our culture is valuing the team before individual contributions. We reward and recognize teams for their collective achievements, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork. We periodically reassess our values and consider incorporating additional sub-values to drive specific behaviors. For example, in our product team, we introduced the value of “quality of ideas and execution” to encourage effective ideation and swift execution.

Gatik Chaujer – Yeah, I saw that something called Done is better than perfect. Isn’t that one of your values?

Gaurav Agarwal – We have always been determined to turn our convictions into reality, even if it meant working through the night as a team. However, as we grew larger, we realized the importance of focusing on significant opportunities rather than chasing too many marginal ones. While smaller problems had a substantial impact when we were a smaller team, they may not have the same step function change in our trajectory as a larger organization. To address this, in the product team, I introduced the concept of “quality of ideas, quality of execution.” It involves assessing the value and impact of ideas before execution, without requiring approvals. The key question is whether the anticipated value was achieved through execution.

Gatik Chaujer – In building a high-performance team, startup organizations often face challenges related to hiring top talent from diverse backgrounds, resulting in a mix of individual rock stars. This diverse leadership pool can create issues with ownership, accountability, and maintaining team cohesion, often leading to situations of artificial harmony.

I’m curious to know if your organization has experienced similar challenges and how you overcame them. Could you share two or three specific tips on addressing these issues and fostering a successful team dynamic?

Gaurav Agarwal -When assembling a team of accomplished individuals, conflicts are inevitable. Hiring senior leaders comes with its challenges as they bring their own personalities and values into a new environment. I’ve learned two important lessons from our experiences. First, during interviews, it’s crucial to evaluate a leader’s personal accomplishments rather than relying solely on organizational support. Second, successful leaders avoid making immediate drastic changes and instead take the time to understand the organization’s dynamics and establish trust. Lastly, the initial team a leader works with greatly impacts their success within the first few months.

Our value of “Beyond CEO” sometimes works against us because we expect leaders to adapt quickly, but our company is no longer a small pool. It’s a challenging environment where experience navigating large organizations is crucial. Trust is vital, and our quality standards help us set the right boundaries without hindering progress. We provide feedback to keep everyone on track but allow autonomy to thrive.

Gatik Chaujer – In the startup world, there is often a conversation about trust among founders and leaders. Interestingly, while we embrace experimentation, agility, and failing fast in product development and workflow, we struggle to apply the same mindset to building relationships. Trust is seen as something that takes time, but in fast-paced organizations, we need to learn how to build trust quickly. One approach is to start with trust from day one and let it be broken if necessary. Some organizations are doing well in this regard, but it remains a challenge. What are your thoughts on this?

Gaurav Agarwal – In my early days at Zynga, I had a game producer named Blake McLaren who asked me if I gave people my trust or if they had to earn it. At that time, I arrogantly believed trust had to be earned. However, over the years, I’ve matured and now I give people my trust when they join our team. I’ve come to realize that there isn’t one right way of doing things, and trusting individuals allows the organization to evolve and discover new approaches. I now set success metrics aligned with our values and business goals, and as long as individuals meet those criteria, we don’t interfere unless they are way off track. This approach fosters better conversations and feedback, focusing on what truly matters. It took me time to learn this, but it’s an ongoing learning process for me.

Gatik Chaujer – I agree, it varies from person to person, and it’s not an easy task. However, in our coaching work with leadership teams, we emphasize that building a team of interesting individuals is a form of risk-taking. Leaders who excel at taking risks in business decisions can apply that strength to team development. Gaining an external perspective is crucial for raising awareness and facing challenges. We’ve observed that startup leadership teams dealing with issues like diversity, growth, trust, and uncertainty can become too immersed in the details. They often require an external view and a push in the right direction. That’s where coaching comes in. Coaching and training, whether internal or external, play a vital role in helping startup teams become high performers.

And from a learning standpoint, what role do you see off of leadership teams in a startup ecosystem to develop a high performance team? What role do you see coaching, training, playing in helping a startup team become a high performing team?

Gaurav Agarwal – I think it’s absolutely critical. I was exposed to coaching during my time at Zynga as a senior leader, where I had a personal coach assigned to me. Since then, I’ve recognized the importance of having a coach who can listen, empathize, and provide tools and techniques to tackle decision-making and strategies. Some may feel hesitant to seek coaching, fearing it implies a personal inadequacy, but I’ve found that a third-party perspective can effectively dissect problems and offer valuable insights. Coaches bring a wealth of diverse experiences and access to a toolkit, much like a math or physics teacher. Consistency is key, whether the coach is paid or free, mentor or friend, as it provides ongoing support and draws upon their experiences to guide discussions on organizational culture and values. At the beginning, we often prioritize business aspects over culture, but I believe getting the cultural elements right is crucial. In our case, being older founders allowed us to leverage our past experiences, and we fostered a culture of trust through open communication and transparency. Having someone who can objectively assess our actions and provide a toolkit for reflection has been incredibly valuable.

Gatik Chaujer – I encountered a situation where a high-performing team achieved remarkable results quarter after quarter. However, when we conducted a team assessment, their attention to results came out as red. This discrepancy surprised the founder, but it highlighted the need to focus on the team’s alignment with results, not just the outcomes they were achieving. This external perspective is vital.

Got an interesting question about your value – to be your own CEO. How does it work in a startup context versus being a more stable or scaled up organisation?

Gaurav Agarwal – Yeah, it’s a tough question, and I’ll be honest, it’s something we’re struggling with ourselves. But here’s my take on it: Being a CEO doesn’t fundamentally change, regardless of the size or stage of the organization. It’s about having a vision and rallying people around it. In a startup, individuals can have a direct impact and make significant changes. As the company grows, the CEO’s role shifts to influencing and convincing others to align with the vision. It’s about empowering individuals within the organization to take ownership and drive initiatives. So, while the scope of influence may change, the essence of being a CEO remains the same: leading with a clear vision and enabling others to become leaders in their own right.

Gatik Chaujer – Absolutely, I agree with you. Defining the elements of the founder’s mentality is crucial. It could include a bias for action, frontline obsession, or a focus on cash flow. Helping individuals understand and embody these aspects is key. Consensus is important, but it should align with the overall vision and purpose of the organization.

Gaurav Agarwal – You’re absolutely right. As a founder, I’ve come to realize that it’s not enough to just talk about customer obsession. I need to demonstrate it through my actions and prioritize it for my team. We often struggle to define what the founder’s mentality means and hesitate to give others the same latitude and empowerment we have. It’s important to clearly identify and define what we’re looking for from individuals and provide them with the same opportunities to embody the fundamentality we seek.

Gatik Chaujer – Maybe the last question that will take off is what is your measurement of a high performance team? How would you measure a high performance team?

Gaurav Agarwal – I’ll do my best to provide an off-the-cuff response, but it’s a challenging question. From my experience, high-performance teams exhibit strong initiative and ownership. Trust is a vital element, where team members can be candid, engage in healthy conflicts, and support one another without letting anyone fail. Additionally, these teams push each other to achieve their best, creating a sense of constant growth and energy. At one mg, we have teams that embody these qualities, and I often feel inspired and motivated by their achievements. We also encourage other teams to learn from them through internships. These values of setting high standards, fostering trust, and promoting initiative and ownership are essential in high-performance teams.

What is your measurement of a high-performing team? 

Gatik Chaujer -I’m glad that my thoughts resonated with you. When it comes to measuring the success of a high-performing team, I’ve learned that there are five key measures: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results. By assessing these factors and tracking progress over time, we can see tangible changes and the impact of building a high-performing team. I appreciate the opportunity to share my insights, and I look forward to staying connected and discussing more about teams interning with each other.

Gaurav Agarwal – Thank you so much for having me. It was really a pleasure. Thank you so much for organizing this.