Long before they started their podcast, Madhvi Ramani and Rina Grob realised they were yearning for discussions of a very particular tenor. “Do you know that feeling, when you go into the women’s toilet in a nightclub and everyone just tells you what they think, straight up?” Ramani asks fondly. “Really good conversations happen. We thought, ‘Where’s the space for those conversations to happen outside of a nightclub?’”
Regular listeners of Ms Informed (taglined “the podcast for smart but lazy people”) may know the answer. On each fortnightly episode, Ramani and Grob tackle topics ranging from biohacking and Liebig34 to Rosa Luxembourg and jet lag with unabashed earnestness, curiosity and humour. Any jadedness and sarcasm are noticeably absent; on Ms Informed, engagement and learning are always the order of the day. “We like to pick topics that are not as well represented in the news, not as talked about. That way, we not only educate ourselves but educate others,” says Grob, adding with a laugh, “Yeah, educate everyone!”
…in a different city, it’d be completely different; the community we’ve built up is solely thanks to Berlin.
London-born Ramani and Grob, who grew up in Munich, met in Berlin five years ago when they freelanced for the same creative agency and realised that they shared an interest in intersectional feminism, politics and books. In 2020, they lost both their work and the opportunity to socialise, but rather than sinking into the collective swamp of banana bread and Joe Exotic, they decided to continue their conversation elsewhere.
“What happened was, I was reading about Tom Hanks’ sons online,” says Grob, the self-confessed pop culture junkie of the two. “There’s this theory that whatever you name your child dictates what your child will become. So if you name your child Colin, you’ll get a Colin, if you name your child Chet, you get a Chet. I sent it to Madhvi saying, ‘This is so interesting. We should make a podcast.’ She responded: ‘I will do a podcast with you. I’m not talking about Chet Hanks.’”
The first episode of Ms Informed was recorded in Ramani’s bedroom, sitting on the floor. “We thought it would be so easy,” she says, rolling her eyes. “We got together in the morning with this idea that we’d just have a conversation and throw it up online. We recorded the pilot four times. It was very bad.”
One hundred and forty episodes later, the show is still recorded on Ramani’s bedroom floor and is still unscripted to ensure the conversation feels fresh, but other things have changed. “We’ve really improved a lot in terms of editing and organisation,” says Grob. “One of the things we’ve had to learn not to do is to interrupt, to give the other person space in the room to figure out what they’re thinking about.”
“Personally,” adds Ramani, “I’ve been trying to speak in a different way. Part of the backlash to the idea of wokeness is that people feel left out, like there’s no room for discussion. I think we started off quite strong in our opinions, and then the more we learned, the more we realised that people were getting pushed out. We want to invite them in, to make it a place of conversation rather than just opinion.”
I will do a podcast with you. I’m not talking about Chet Hanks.
The podcast has since expanded in all kinds of ways. There are fundraisers for Ukraine and Yemen, live podcast recordings, a Substack newsletter and interviews with invited guests (Ramani and Grob recommend the episodes dedicated to the clitoris, female porn and miscarriage), and ‘Disobedient Dinners’ where guests bring along someone unknown to the hosts. Both note the high levels of positive feedback after their explainer episodes on Palestine and Burkina Faso.
“I see the podcast as an opportunity to grow our community and engage with more people,” says Grob. “The people we meet here and the environment this city fosters are 100% part of the podcast. If we did it in a different city, it’d be completely different; the community we’ve built up is solely thanks to Berlin.”
- Ms Informed is available wherever you get your podcasts