HONG KONG—Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang, is devolving power to the heads of the company’s business units to become more agile in tackling rising challenges and potentially open the way for spinoffs, people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Zhang, also chairman of the internet giant, is delegating more responsibility to presidents at each business line—from location-based services to cloud computing—who now function as “mini-CEOs,” the people said. The strategy is intended to speed up decision making so each division can better fend off competition, revitalize flagging sales and reshape its monolithic image in the wake of Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on big platforms.

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